USPA & PIA Team to Revise FAA Repack RuleBy Jay Young on 2008-12-18
PIA President, Cliff Schmucker (left), and USPA Executive Director, Ed Scott, flank FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell while discussing the new 180-day repack rule. Photo by Randy Ottinger.
Re-run with USPA permission.
After years of effort by USPA and the Parachute Industry Association, the FAA has approved a new final rule that will lengthen the parachute repack cycle from 120 days to 180 days. The final rule appeared in the Federal Register last month, and will take effect on December 19, 2008. The effort had more twists and turns than a funneled 20-way, but the change happened when PIA and USPA joined together and finally convinced the FAA to grant a 180-day repack cycle.
USPA initiated the first run at the change in 1998 when its board of directors approved a motion authorizing USPA to petition the FAA for the rule change. At the time, the FAA was preparing to revise Part 105. However, the FAA declined to include the lengthened repack cycle as part of its Part 105 revision in 2001, saying the initiative didn't have full industry support.
In early 2005, Allen Silver, a well-known rigger and PIA’s Rigging Committee chair, initiated discussion with the FAA about accepting a petition for an exemption that would allow a 180-day repack cycle. Getting FAA agreement, PIA and USPA formed a task group to develop the petition language. This resulted in an effort in which all aviation groups, whose pilots used emergency parachutes, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Soaring Society, among others, to join PIA and USPA in jointly petitioning the FAA for an exemption to the regulations addressing those parachutes. The exemption requested a 180-day repack cycle for the emergency parachutes worn by pilots, as well as the sport parachutes used by skydivers. The joint PIA-USPA petition was submitted in July 2005. Ironically, while the FAA saw good cause for a lengthened repack cycle, the agency said its own rules prevented it from granting an exemption to so many beneficiaries; exemptions were intended for small groups. The FAA denied the petition for exemption.
However, acknowledging the support of so many pilots, riggers and skydivers, the FAA declared that it would publish its own Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to lengthen the repack cycle, which it did on May 22, 2007. At urging by USPA and PIA, nearly all of the hundreds of comments to the docket were in favor of the proposal. The end result is a final rule published this week granting the lengthened repack cycle.
"This result shows what can happen when two organizations like USPA and PIA decide to work together on common goals," said USPA Executive Director Ed Scott. "We look forward to doing even more together for the benefit of skydivers." PIA President Cliff Schmucker said, "The 180-day repack rule change is a fine example of what PIA and USPA can accomplish working as one. Together we will endeavor to continue improving safety for parachute users.”
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