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low&slow

Elderly parachute usage or disposal

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I have a Para-phernalia Softie that has to be at least 24 years old.  I had it inspected and packed by a master rigger in about 2013.  It has been stored in the house (heated and air-conditioned) and way out of the sun its entire life. I really would like to see it go to some use - rather than the trash heap.  A a jumper at the local airshow said this was the forum to use to get a little clarity on the situation and maybe a really good answer/recommendation.  What say you?

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If your Softie is clean and has minimal wear, you MIGHT convince a local rigger to repack it. Faded harness webbing is often half as strong as when it was new. It all depends upon condition.

When I worked at Para-Phernalia (aka. Softie factory) we refused to repack most pilot emergency parachutes more than 20 years old. After 20 years of regular usage, they were usually faded, frayed and filthy. There was also the matter of the earliest Softies being rather crude and subtle improvements had been added over the years. If you rSoftie is only 24 years old, it was made in 1998 after all the major bugs had been worked out of the original patterns.

As an aside, I also quit repacking round parachute canopies that were manufactured during the 1980s because to the acid-mesh hassles. Yes, I am familiar with the FAA-approved process (bromocreasol green and tensile testing) for returning them to service, but after testing a thousand or so, I lost interest in the process.

When I worked for Butler, we rarely repacked PEPs more than 20 years old because the Southern California desert was harsh on PEPs.

National and Pioneer also published retrospective notices telling riggers to not return to service their products more than 15 years old, but that was mainly to ground round canopies suspected of suffering from acid-mesh.

When I worked for Square One at Perris Valley, California, loft policy dictated that we not repack parachutes more than 25 years old.

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15 hours ago, low&slow said:

I have a Para-phernalia Softie that has to be at least 24 years old.  I had it inspected and packed by a master rigger in about 2013.  It has been stored in the house (heated and air-conditioned) and way out of the sun its entire life. I really would like to see it go to some use - rather than the trash heap.  A a jumper at the local airshow said this was the forum to use to get a little clarity on the situation and maybe a really good answer/recommendation.  What say you?

Seriously? You just needed to include elderly and disposal in the same sentence?

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There should be a data label on the harness that will give you the Date of Manufacture (DoM). There should also be a packing data card that will have DoM for both the harness/container and the canopy. The card will also have the repack history.

This is going to be an 'emergency bailout' rig, not a sport rig. Something the pilot of a jump plane or aerobatic plane would wear. Very likely has zero jumps on it.

Depending on a few things, it may be useable. Or maybe not. 

There's a whole lot of discussion and debate about the 'lifespan' of a rig. Some of it is based on facts, some on opinion, some on liability.

Are you looking to actually use it?
Or more to sell it/give it to someone who can?

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Whether to pack older pilot rigs tends to be a personal choice by riggers, in terms of liability.

Some say "If the manufacturer writes that after 20 years I have to cut it up and eat every piece topped with jam, well, my FAA rating says I have to do what the manufacturer says.... Besides, even if I consider the manufacturer's statement about service life to only be a non-binding recommendation, I personally prefer not to go against that recommendation. Plus, I own a house and don't want to be sued by someone's stupid family."

Others say "According to the FAA there was no life limit established on that parachute when it was first certified, and so if newer versions of the manual state a 20 year life, that is not mandatory and only an advisory. Also, based on existing rigging practices in skydiving, there are no similar life limit rules for the majority of skydiving equipment in North America, and thus no industry-wide safety issue exists. Each reserve parachute or emergency parachute is considered individually when being packed, whether it is airworthy at the time of packing."

If little-worn, well stored, out of the sun, the rig may be nearly new in terms of strength of materials.

Opinions vary.

 

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15 hours ago, pchapman said:

According to the FAA there was no life limit established on that parachute when it was first certified, and so if newer versions of the manual state a 20 year life, that is not mandatory and only an advisory.

Why couldn't/wouldn't the manufacturers formalize an advisory that all rigs, chutes, etc, past, present and future are considered non-airworthy after 240 months from the Date of Manufacture?

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44 minutes ago, BIGUN said:

Why couldn't/wouldn't the manufacturers formalize an advisory that all rigs, chutes, etc, past, present and future are considered non-airworthy after 240 months from the Date of Manufacture?

Indeed they could. But I think it would indeed be advisory only, a recommendation.

When that FAA letter to the USPA came out years ago, supposedly explaining and clarifying what the rules on life limits were, that letter was unfortunately unclear in one bit of wording. So it didn't clear things up completely. Some riggers certainly argue that the only mandatory limit is if it is part of the original TSO certification. That's the interpretation I tend to follow and think is correct based on the messy wording in the letter. Still, others might interpret that if the manual the parachute came with now lists a life, then from that point onwards there is a life limit.

It is common for companies to put age limits on pilot rig canopies and containers, while not putting limits on most sport gear. Just a quirk of the way the industry has developed. While age limits are accepted as normal in a few places in Europe, it wouldn't go over well with skydivers here as it just hasn't been the historical way it is done. But for a pilot, well the rig is just another expensive part that has some form of time limits. "Inspect this part on the plane at 1000 hours, overhaul that prop at 10 years, replace the emergency parachute at 20 years, whatever, it's all similar."

The FAA letter says that to to make a mandatory service life, the manufacturer issues a Safety Bulletin with safety concerns and recommends the FAA issue an Airworthiness Directive -- and that AD would establish a mandatory life.

But I also understand those riggers who simply choose to follow a manufacturer recommendation.

 

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27 minutes ago, pchapman said:

When that FAA letter to the USPA came out years ago, supposedly explaining and clarifying what the rules on life limits were, that letter was unfortunately unclear in one bit of wording. So it didn't clear things up completely. Some riggers certainly argue that the only mandatory limit is if it is part of the original TSO certification.

Thank you

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4 hours ago, pchapman said:

Indeed they could. But I think it would indeed be advisory only, a recommendation.

When that FAA letter to the USPA came out years ago, supposedly explaining and clarifying what the rules on life limits were, that letter was unfortunately unclear in one bit of wording. So it didn't clear things up completely. Some riggers certainly argue that the only mandatory limit is if it is part of the original TSO certification. That's the interpretation I tend to follow and think is correct based on the messy wording in the letter. Still, others might interpret that if the manual the parachute came with now lists a life, then from that point onwards there is a life limit.

It is common for companies to put age limits on pilot rig canopies and containers, while not putting limits on most sport gear. Just a quirk of the way the industry has developed. While age limits are accepted as normal in a few places in Europe, it wouldn't go over well with skydivers here as it just hasn't been the historical way it is done. But for a pilot, well the rig is just another expensive part that has some form of time limits. "Inspect this part on the plane at 1000 hours, overhaul that prop at 10 years, replace the emergency parachute at 20 years, whatever, it's all similar."

The FAA letter says that to to make a mandatory service life, the manufacturer issues a Safety Bulletin with safety concerns and recommends the FAA issue an Airworthiness Directive -- and that AD would establish a mandatory life.

But I also understand those riggers who simply choose to follow a manufacturer recommendation.

 

Hi Peter,

A quite well thought letter,  I could suggest a few editorial changes, but you've 'hit the nail on the head.'

About 4 yrs ago I was contacted by a rigger who had sent his square reserve parachute back to the mfr [ who shall remain nameless as I believe that there is more than one mfr who has boxes to be checked on their canopies ] to have a line check determination completed.  He had inspected the line lengths & thought that they might be out of spec.  I do not know exactly how the mfr responded, i.e., phone call, letter, e-mail, etc.  As I recall, this mfr informed him that a sufficient number of the various check boxes had been filled in and that they would not re-certify it; I may be wrong on the exact wording as it has been some time ago & I may have been communicating with the rigger/owner by phone or by e-mail.

He asked me if I could help out, as he only wanted a line check completed, nothing more.

I gave him some thoughts to include into a letter to the mfr [ I told him to put it only into written form & not phone call or e-mail ].  I also told him to include in the letter to the mfr a demand that they send the canopy back to him & that they take no further action regarding the canopy as it was his property.

A few weeks later the canopy was returned to the rigger/owner in the same condition as he had sent it to them.  They did not provide any info regarding line lengths.

Jerry Baumchen

 

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Dear pchapman,

Following manufacturers' instructions is a great way to shut up ambulance-chasing lawyers.

Lawyer "Why did you pack it this way?"

Rigger "I packed it in accordance with page 19 in the container manual."

L. "Why did you install it this way?"

R. "Page 17 in the Cypres manual."

L. Why did you install the connector links this way?"

R. "Page 18 in the reserve manual."

Then the lawyer wanders off to sue the manufacturers for big bucks. Lawyers only care about the big bucks. 

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(edited)
10 minutes ago, riggerrob said:

Dear pchapman,

Following manufacturers' instructions is a great way to shut up ambulance-chasing lawyers.

Lawyer "Why did you pack it this way?"

Rigger "I packed it in accordance with page 19 in the container manual."

L. "Why did you install it this way?"

R. "Page 17 in the Cypres manual."

L. Why did you install the connector links this way?"

R. "Page 18 in the reserve manual."

Then the lawyer wanders off to sue the manufacturers for big bucks. Lawyers only care about the big bucks. 

Hi Rob,

Lawyer:  RiggerRob, why did you mark out the TSO placard on the canopy, by marking across it with a large MagicMarker and then writing NON-AIRWORTHY DO NOT JUMP on the canopy?

RR:  In the 3rd generation of the Owner's Manual, the mfr said to do this.

Lawyer:  Mr. FAA Administrator, did this rigger in the field have FAA authority to take this action?

Mr. FAA:  No, we did not issue an Airworthiness Directive regarding this item.

Lawyer:  Ladies & gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

Jerry Baumchen

PS)  Guess who just bought the canopy owner a new canopy?

 

 

Edited by JerryBaumchen

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(edited)

Hello Gerry,

Now we get into a lengthy debate about whether a lowly rigger should follow the second or third edition of the manual.

Most of the time, I follow the latest edition of the manual, unless I know about some part that does not apply to older versions of that parachute. For example, when packing Javelins, I fold pilot chutes in accordance with the third or fourth version of the manual because it does a better job of concealing the F-111 fabric.

Edited by riggerrob
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14 minutes ago, riggerrob said:

Hello Gerry,

Now we get into a lengthy debate about whether a lowly rigger should follow the second or third edition of the manual.

Most of the time, I follow the latest edition of the manual, unless I know about some part that does not apply to older versions of that parachute (e.g. reserve bulk distribution of Javelins made before or after 2000.). I suppose that difference is explained in the difference between Javelin Classic and Javelin Odyssey, but few younger riggers understand the subtle changes.

Hi Rob,

My post was in regard to the authority of a mfr's Service Bulletin vs the FAA's Airworthiness Directive and ends up buying the owner a new canopy.

In the scenario I wrote about, it would seem as though the mfr decided that they did not want to give a free canopy away.

Jerry Baumchen

PS)  Re:  Now we get into a lengthy debate about whether a lowly rigger should follow the second or third edition of the manual.

Did you know that an Owner's/Packing Manual is never mentioned in TSO c23(b)? *

In other words, the mfr has no obligation to provide the owner with one.

* If I'm wrong this, I will happily be corrected.

The PIA could probably do a 4-day Symposium on just these matters.  And, people would still walk away shaking their heads.

 

 

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why would you mark not air worthy on a reserve if you don't want to pack it because it's too old?  obviously it's air worthy, just not reserve worthy.  i could understand if there was another reason, like porosity, but not just for being too old to be used as a reserve.  that sounds like a dick move.

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1 minute ago, sfzombie13 said:

why would you mark not air worthy on a reserve if you don't want to pack it because it's too old?  obviously it's air worthy, just not reserve worthy.  i could understand if there was another reason, like porosity, but not just for being too old to be used as a reserve.  that sounds like a dick move.

Hi 13,

IMO this answers your question:  . . .  the mfr decided that they did not want to give a free canopy away.

Jerry Baumchen

PS)  Back some time ago, when I was still in the mfg business, I bought a number of no-longer-in-service Demo Reserve Canopies from PD.  They were the owners of the canopies until I bought them.  They had written Not Airworthy on each of them.  They had told me this prior to any purchases.  Their explanation was that the canopy(s) did not pass their porosity checks as examples of their reserve canopy(s).

When they arrived some of them seemed to be in very good condition to me.  I would have considered them airworthy.

I then talked to PD again as I thought some of them were airworthy.  PD said that 'some of them' would pass PD's test standard for porosity on re-certification by PD.  However, they would not pass PD's in-house standard for a Demo Reserve Canopy.

 

 

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that doesn't answer the question.  it wasn't the question.  your scenario had a rigger marking on the canopy, not the manufacturer.  i'll ask again just in case you have a valid reason why it would happen from anyone other than the manufacturer.  why would you mark not air worthy on a reserve if you don't want to pack it because it's too old if you're not the manufacturer?

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(edited)
9 hours ago, sfzombie13 said:

that doesn't answer the question.  it wasn't the question.  your scenario had a rigger marking on the canopy, not the manufacturer.  i'll ask again just in case you have a valid reason why it would happen from anyone other than the manufacturer.  why would you mark not air worthy on a reserve if you don't want to pack it because it's too old if you're not the manufacturer?

Hi 13,

Re:  your scenario had a rigger marking on the canopy

OK, show me where I did that.

Jerry Baumchen

Edited by JerryBaumchen

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26 minutes ago, JerryBaumchen said:

Hi 13,

Re:  your scenario had a rigger marking on the canopy

OK, show me where I did that.

Jerry Baumchen

maybe i misread that part and it was intended to show the lawyer asking a company rep.  see attached picture. 

t.png

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In a capitalist society (e.g. USA), you can be sued for doing anything ... even following the letter of the law. It is all about who has the most dollars.

OTOH in a more authoritarian society (e.g. UK) if a licensed technician (e.g. rigger) "Xes" out your data panel, you are finished and there is no point to whining after the fact.

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Just messing with Gerry Baumchen ....

What if the rigger is working in a country (e.g. most of the European Union) where parachutes have a nationally mandated "life" of 20 years? Yes, I know that the law primarily applies to pilot emergency parachutes, but skydivers generally follow the same standard.

It does not matter what the manufacturer or FAA say, riggers in those countries are forbidden to return to service a parachute more than 20 years old. Does local law trump an American law?

Then it gets really complicated when a rigger like skydiverek (see banner ad at the top of the page) buys up 20 year old reserves in Europe and re-sells them to North Americans.

As an aside, it is difficult to give away 20 plus year old parachutes in North America. So the North American market has decided that 20 plus year old parachutes are devalued below zero.

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9 minutes ago, riggerrob said:

Just messing with Gerry Baumchen ....

What if the rigger is working in a country (e.g. most of the European Union) where parachutes have a nationally mandated "life" of 20 years? Yes, I know that the law primarily applies to pilot emergency parachutes, but skydivers generally follow the same standard.

It does not matter what the manufacturer or FAA say, riggers in those countries are forbidden to return to service a parachute more than 20 years old. Does local law trump an American law?

Then it gets really complicated when a rigger like skydiverek (see banner ad at the top of the page) buys up 20 year old reserves in Europe and re-sells them to North Americans.

As an aside, it is difficult to give away 20 plus year old parachutes in North America. So the North American market has decided that 20 plus year old parachutes are devalued below zero.

Hi Rob,

I have never said anything about equipment used in a country other than the USA; or certificated in a country other than the USA.  That is a totally different subject, that I have little knowledge of.  IMO too many countries, too many rules, reg, etc.

Re:  the North American market has decided that 20 plus year old parachutes are devalued below zero.

About 5-6 yrs ago, I was contacted by a major DZO asking me if I had any 26 ft Lo-Po's that I might sell to him.  I told him that I had two, they were quite old but that I felt that they were in excellent condition.  I gave him a price for both of them.  We agreed to:

- the pricing

- I would send them [ at my cost ] to a major rigger, of his choice, for inspection

- if that rigger determined that they were airworthy, then the DZO would pay me for them

- if that rigger determined that the DZO should not buy them, I would pay the shipping back to me

- that rigger inspected them, installed them into PEP rigs & I got paid for them

To the best of my knowledge, those two canopies are still in service.

I have never known of any item certificated in the USA that has a life-limit to it.

Jerry Baumchen

 

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1 hour ago, riggerrob said:

As an aside, it is difficult to give away 20 plus year old parachutes in North America. So the North American market has decided that 20 plus year old parachutes are devalued below zero.

Come on Rob, you have to ease up on your 20 year rule as the years go by!   :-)

Yeah at one time a 20 year old reserve was some crappy lightweight maybe acid damaged round. Or some easy to stall tiny overloaded Raven with no spanwise reinforcement. But now a 20 year old reserve can be a great PD reserve that will take high weights and speeds.

Similarly, a 20 year old rig isn't one with velcro all over, and relatively sketchy bridle and pin protection.  A 20 year old rig is most likeley fully free fly friendly. You might not get a MARD on most 2002 rigs, or magnetic riser covers, but other than fancier looking hardware and backpads, the rest of the design isn't going to be much different.

Now you may be right that say a 2002 Vector III & PD reserve (with say 20-25 boxes ticked off) & Sabre 2 isn't going to command a nearly-new price ... but it isn't exactly crap gear worth nearly nothing.

If you were only talking about 20 year old pilot rigs .... Well yeah their value is going down a fair bit. But they don't seem uncommon up here in Canada. I think they migrate up here as US FAA riggers get more antsy about packing them, being more worried about 20 year "service life" stuff in manuals.  But if they haven't been heavily used and sitting in the sun a lot, they can be in decent shape.

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