So, You Want to Be a Rigger?

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So, You Want to Be a Rigger?

Parachute rigging can be a rewarding and educational experience. The more you know about your gear and understand how it works, the safer you are and can make better-educated gear decisions. Parachute rigging is serious business and is not to be taken lightly. Earning the Senior Parachute Rigger's Certificate is no easy task and symbolizes a tremendous achievement. The following is an explanation of the process to becoming an U.S.A. FAA Certificated Senior Parachute Rigger, from the minimum requirements to how to complete them.

Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 65 lists the requirements and privileges of a Senior and Master Parachute Rigger. Also, the, Airworthiness Inspector's Handbook 8300.10 , is the FAA's guide to Part 65 pertaining to Parachute Riggers and is a good source of information. Also AC 65-5B is available.

To be eligible to be a Parachute Rigger, you must be 18 years of age and be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language.

The requirements to become a Senior Parachute Rigger are:

1. Present evidence satisfactory to the Administrator that he has packed at least 20 parachutes of each type for which he seeks a rating, in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and under the supervision of a certificated parachute rigger holding a rating for that type or a person holding an appropriate military rating;

2. Pass a written test, with respect to parachutes in common use, on --

(1) Their construction, packing, and maintenance;
(2) The manufacturer's instructions;
(3) The regulations of this subpart (Part 65)

3. Pass an oral and practical test showing his ability to pack and maintain at least one type of parachute in common use, appropriate to the type rating he seeks.

Completing these requirements will take commitment, time, and effort. The following is a guide to accomplishing each of the requirements.

Military riggers or former military riggers.

Special certification rule:

In place of the above, an applicant for a senior parachute rigger certificate is entitled to it if he passes a written test on the regulations of this subpart and presents satisfactory documentary evidence that he --
(a) Is a member or civilian employee of an Armed Force of the United States, is a civilian employee of a regular armed force of a foreign country, or has, within the 12 months before he applies, been honorably discharged or released from any status covered by this paragraph;
(b) Is serving, or has served within the 12 months before he applies, as a parachute rigger for such an Armed Force; and
(c) Has the experience outlined in #1 above.

In short, as long as they meet the requirements, they are only required to pass a written test covering FAR's Part 65 and Part 105.

Another option for completing the requirements and earning the Senior Parachute Riggers license is attending a rigging course. They vary in length and cost, but are usually 7-14 days long. The pass rate is generally very high at these courses, but they can be expensive. Usually there is a Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner, (DPRE) on staff. These courses are advertised in Parachutist and Skydiving Magazine. United States Academy of Parachute Rigging , Para Concepts , Action Air Parachutes , and Skydive Marana , are a few that offer a complete course.

1. Pack 20 approved parachutes-

The best place to start is with your rigger. Ask them if they are willing to take you on as an apprentice. You will need to order a logbook ( Para Gear , $9.75, Item #S7290, on page 165 of catalog #67) in order to keep the records required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Watching your rigger inspect and pack a couple reserves and studying the packing instructions will make it less painful when you inspect and pack your first reserve. Be sure to pack several different types and sizes of reserves and harness/containers.

It is a good idea to learn from a couple of different riggers too. Each rigger has different techniques and tips. Do your homework. Review packing instructions beforehand. Take full advantage of the time spent in the loft.

Don't buy any tools until you have inspected and packed several reserves into different containers. This will give you the knowledge to either decide which tools to buy and which tools to make yourself. Not only is making your own tools cheaper, but also you can make them to your exact specifications.

Begin collecting rigging information. Download manuals from manufacturers web sites. (A list of web sites is at the bottom of the page.) You will need the manual for every reserve canopy and the manual harness/container you pack. Also begin to collect Service Bulletins (SB's) and Advisory Directives (AD's) for gear. They can be found on manufacturer's web sites, the FAA's web site , the Australian Parachute Federation maintains a great list of SB's, and AD's. Parachute Industry Association contains links to manufacturers and SB's/AD's, and once you have your rigger's ticket, PIA has a Rigger's Forum . You can also e-mail, write to, or call a manufacturer and request a SB or AD be mailed or faxed to you. A must have for any rigger is Dan Poynter's Parachute manual , Volume I and II. They are considered the 'bible' of rigging. Also have a copy of Advisory Circular 105-2C .

You should also learn how to pack rounds, as you may be required to pack one for the practical test. Once you have your certificate, you can pack round reserves, found in most pilot bail out rigs.

In addition to the 20 inspections and repacks, you will need to learn how to sew a patch, finger trap and sew lines, hand tack, set grommets, perform maintenance, and know the FAR's pertaining to parachutes, Part 65 and 105.

2. The Written Test-

The written test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. 2.0 hours are allotted to complete the test. There are no prerequisites to taking the written, you just have to pass it prior to taking the oral/practical test. The minimum passing score is 70%, the average score in 2002 was 89.91% with 182 applicants, and a 97.8% pass rate (178/182). You have 2 hours to complete the test. The good news is all the 290 possible questions are available at: Bank: (Parachute Rigger) Airman Knowledge Test Question Bank (249k), courtesy of the FAA. The bad news is that the FAA doesn't include the answers. Para Publishing offers study guides for the written and oral/practical which include the answers and explanations to the questions. The written test was updated on 6/9/03, and the study guide may not have been updated to reflect the new questions. The Parachute Rigger Knowledge Test Guide (40.5k) (updated as of October 12, 2003), is a FAA guide to the written test and includes contact information for the computerized testing centers. AFS 630 is the one-stop shop for links to Advisory Circulars, Airman Knowledge Test Questions, Airman Knowledge Testing Sites, Airman Knowledge Testing Supplements, Airman Knowledge, Airman Knowledge Testing information, Other Testing information, Practical Test Standards, Test Statistics, Training Handbooks, and Subject Matter Knowledge Codes. A test supplement with figures will be provided for the test. If you wish to preview it, it is not downloadable from the FAA’s web page. You may purchase it from Aviation Supplies and Academics, Inc (ASA) at www.asa2fly.com for $10.00.

The Airman Knowledge Testing Center Lists , computerized test locations. Call ahead to make an appointment. One option is LaserGrade Computer Testing. Their number is 800-211-2754. Call the actual testing site first for their site number. The cost is $80.00. You can also take the written test for free at your local Flight Standards District Office, ( FSDO ), but it can take 3 weeks to get the results as opposed to immediately with the computerized test.

You will need to bring a picture I.D. and the completed 8610-2 (signed by the FAA) to take the written test.

3. The Oral and Practical Test-

To take the Oral/Practical test, you will first need to get your supervising rigger to give you a letter stating that you have packed at least 20 reserves under their supervision and are prepared to take the oral/practical. Download and print out 2 copies of FAA form 8610-2 . Fill these out, legibly and without any mistakes, and take them, your written test report (with a passing score, of course), your logbook, a picture ID, a permanent mailing address, and the letter from your supervising rigger to your local FSDO . FSDO 's have tightened their security procedures. You will have to sign in and be escorted to the appropriate office. Call ahead, as an appointment may be necessary or make your visit easier.

The Parachute Rigger Examiner's Handbook includes example forms and guidance to the DPRE , for completing paperwork and administering the exam. A new (June 2003) FAA publication, Parachute Rigger Practical Test Standards (89k) describes tasks that can be assigned and the standards for each task.

Once you have the 8610-2's signed by a FAA official, find a DPRE . Click on the "DME/DPRE Examiners" button, select the state and click "search". Contact the DPRE and make an appointment to take the oral/practical test. Be sure to ask about cost of the exam, what to bring, and what to expect. Each DPRE is different, for example, some DPRE's do not require an applicant to pack a round parachute as part of the exam. Asking new riggers about the DPRE they were examined by and will give you an idea what to expect and which DPRE you want to test you. The DPRE will review your logbook, 8610-2's , and picture ID. Then the exam will begin with the oral questions from a bank of questions. The DPRE will ask you a few questions from each subject matter category from the bank of questions. If you do not know the answer to the question, say so, but be sure to say where you would look up the answer and be prepared to do exactly that. The DPRE may wish to make sure you know how and where to look up the information, and are willing to.

For the practical, be prepared to completely inspect a reserve canopy and container and pack it. The DPRE may have you repack your rig or may have you inspect and pack a rig they supply. You may have to demonstrate packing a round parachute. Be sure have the manuals for the canopy and harness/container and use the packing instructions. Take your time and do it right.

For the canopy patch, refer to patching instructions as you work. Don't leave anything to chance and don't rush.

The DPRE may have a few sewing projects for you. Make sure you understand what exactly the DPRE wants you to do.

If you pass, the DPRE will issue a FAA Form 8060-4, Temporary Airman Certificate, which is valid for 120 days. On it, will be your 3-digit seal code. This is the code that will be on your seal press. Your certificate number will be your Social Security Number, unless you request a different number. The FAA will mail you your permanent certificate. FAR FAR 65.21 specifies that if your address changes, you have 30 days to notify the FAA of your new address. You can mail in form 8060-55 or submit the new address online . You can purchase your seal press from ( Para Gear $59.75 Item #S7330, page 165, catalog #67).

So, now you passed and are now a FAA Certificated Senior Parachute Rigger, congratulations! Now the real work begins, knowing that other people's lives depend on your workmanship.

The Rigger's Creed-

"I will be sure- always. I will never let the idea that a piece of work is 'good enough' make me a potential murderer through a careless mistake or oversight, for I know that there can be no compromise with perfection."

Links to Manufacturers:

Strong Enterprises
National Parachute Industries, Inc
Sun Path
Relative Workshop
Performance Designs
Icarus Canopies
Flight Concepts International
Flight Concepts International
Rigging Innovations
Mirage Systems
Para-Phernalia, inc
Free Flight Enterprises
Sunrise Rigging
Trident Harness and Container, Inc
Jump Shack
Velocity Sports Equipment
Big Air Sportz
Atair Aerodynamics
Aerodyne Research
Butler Parachute Systems, Inc
Para-Flite Incorporated
Precision Aerodynamics, Inc
Airtec USA
FXC Corporation
North American Aerodynamics, Inc
Pioneer Aerospace Corporation

Federal Aviation Administration Links:

The Parachute Rigger Knowledge Test Guide
Bank: (Parachute Rigger) Airman Knowledge Test Question Bank
Federal Aviation Regulations
Airworthiness Inspector's Handbook 8300.10
Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner
Flight Standards District Office
Parachute Rigger Examiner's Handbook
Parachute Rigger Practical Test Standards
FAA Form 8610-2
FAA Form 8060-55
Advisory Circular 105-2C
AFS 630
AC 65-5B

Other links:

Australian Parachute Federation
Para Gear
[url http://www.logsa.army.mil/etms/find_etm.cfm] Site for U.S. Army Manuals [/url


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What is your opinion on 15-days Rigger's Course?

Overall not one in particular unless you want to sponsor one.

I haven't attended one, so I would be the wrong person to ask. A new thread asking for opinions on rigging course might elicit some opinions from graduates of these courses. I do think that having some rigging experience prior to attending a rigging course is essential. Initially, learning to be a rigger is time consuming, and a slow process. Getting through a few inspections and repacks prior to attending a rigging course will allow you to spend your time taking advantage of the Instructor(s) knowledge and refine your skills more efficiently than going in cold. Also having passed the written test prior to attending will free up more time better spent rigging.

Regardless of which route you go, after getting your ticket don't hesitate to call on another rigger for advice or information. Not knowing is not a sign of weakness, not asking is.


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I'm dumping all my "favorites" under rigging and using your post!

Sucking up, Sucking up, Sucking up, Sucking up, Sucking up,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
(did it work????? Now that you've got one of those "green names" you scare me.....:P)

Great stuff.


James 4:8

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I was attempting to respond to this kick ass thread just to bump it. The thread speaks for itself and needs no input from me.

The word *bump* is used far too often but it's time this thread is upped..

The only appropriate way I can think of, to bump this using a one worder, is this way.

OK... it's bumped.

Great Read Derek.
My grammar sometimes resembles that of magnetic refrigerator poetry... Ghetto

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BUMP, indeed.
(We've been in the wilds of Colorado climbing for the past week, so just read the post - thanks, Hook!)

I'd like to add my $.02 - this from the perspective of learning parachute rigging as an apprentice, not having taken any course.

Investing in the study guide for the written test is highly recommended. Many of the questions are rather ambiguous, in my opinion. Almost all of the questions on my test were rather antiquated and involved rounds, cones, tools I have never seen in real life, etc. Hint: make sure you understand round line continuity thoroughly, and how to field-dress a cone with a burr (the answer is NOT to use emery cloth, which I thought sounded perfectly logical.) My written test had exactly ONE question involving a square reserve.

Oral/practical - if you can sew (i.e. replace worn-out velcro) and patch a canopy, and do an I & R using pertinent manuals, this should be fairly easy. Do try to get experience in untangling lines and restoring continuity. I was in the bad habit of always hanging canopies that had been cut away, and new reserves for installation- it's so much easier. My rigger mentor wisely made me get into the habit of doing all of this on the floor. Evidently the FAA does not allow you to use canopy hanging bars for this portion of the practical ... so get into the habit of untangling/installing on the floor.

My oral test was refreshing, with many pertinent, real-life rigger issue questions. This is where you really need to know the difference between minor and major repairs, and alterations. Also types of materials used in H/C systems and reserves and what types of damage you may find in inspections and what constitutes damage sufficient to ground a rig. Do keep in mind that the practical is "open book." Saying "I'm not sure, but I know where to look it up" or "Do you have a manual for this?" are perfectly acceptable. (i.e. if they ask for applications, identifying mark and breaking strength of Type VII webbing, you don't have to have it memorized. But do know where to find the answers.)

As far as the whole testing process goes if you are not taking a course, call your local FSDO early and often. In my experience they were very helpful in guiding me though the red tape.

When it comes to DPREs, I feel it pays to shop around. As I understand it, they are arranged in districts. A DPRE cannot test outside of his or her loft without a huge exemption process via the FAA, but you can travel outside of your district to a DPRE of your choice (for whatever reason you may have.) So call around. I don't mean to imply that some DPREs are better or worse than others, but it might pay to find one you feel you can develop a rapport with, and learn from in the process.

I'd like to second what Derek said about tools. In my experience some of the commercially available tools are worthless. On the other hand, once you get your routine down, you can either make your own tools to suit your methods, or get tools specially made for you from a local tool & die-type guy - usually pretty cheaply.

As far as Poynter's Parachute Manuals (the rigger's bibles) go - they will be invaluable to you as you become a rigger. But keep in mind that the newest canopy it contains is the PD Sabre. Once you are a practicing rigger they are good reference for older gear you may experience, but you'll come to rely on the manufacturers for current information.

Also understand that you will never stop learning. A riggers ticket can be hard to get, but it is only the first step. You now have the ability to do inspections and repacks, etc. but you still have a lot to learn. We all do! Every time we have manufacturers at our DZ, or we travel for Nationals or whatever, I seek out those riggers from whom I can learn. They are always generous with their time and knowledge. After all, the manufacturers want you to know the latest tips & tricks to make their rigs look good. If you can't travel, use your phone and your e-mail. Seek out other riggers whenever possible - I guarantee you will learn new tips & tricks. Bottom line - the rigger who really believes he knows everything is one that I will not let pack my reserve.

Never forget that every time you do an I & R, this person's life is in your hands. If you have doubts never assume - ask for help!

John & Dawn
Alpha Mike Foxtrot,

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Bottom line - the rigger who really believes he knows everything is one that I will not let pack my reserve.

Never forget that every time you do an I & R, this person's life is in your hands. If you have doubts never assume - ask for help!

John & Dawn

and that about sums it all up - very succinct J & D. I learned so much at the last PIA symposium I almost wish it had been twice as long so I could have attended all of the seminars. The day I think I can't learn anymore about rigging I'm selling the tools, hanging it up and opening that little shop on Hwy 17 in Florida (I'm going to call it "Shit for Sale").

pd www.sidsrigging.com
Pete Draper,

Just because my life plan is written on the back of a Hooter's Napkin, it's still a life plan.... right?

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Thank you so much for this post. It's an excellent starting point for someone like me interested in doing this. I appreciate all the links and information. This looks like a long journey but one that is just as interesting as the skydiving itself. :)
I'd also like to thank cssriggers because they are ALWAYS available to answer any question, no matter how trivial it seems. I may appear to "bug 'em" but they always come thru!:P;)B|
Thanks Y'all!

Guess I've got some studying to do!:)


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Maybe we should make this a sticky?

Also, I was reading through your links trying to find one with the answers to the 290 questions possible for the written exam, but they all seem to be links to purchase books. Is this information available online anywhere? (Maaan i'm cheap!!!:ph34r:)
I started skydiving for the money and the chicks. Oh, wait.

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Also, I was reading through your links trying to find one with the answers to the 290 questions possible for the written exam, but they all seem to be links to purchase books. Is this information available online anywhere?

The FAA only publishes the questions, not the answers:S. The only place I have seent hat offers a study guide, with the answers and explainations is Para-Publishing. I don't know if they have updated their study guide since the test was updated.


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Is it recommended/common for someone to become a rigger for the specific purpose of repacking his own reserve only? Or would he lose currency and skill only doing 3 pack jobs a year?

Just like skydiving, currency in rigging is important. I think a lot of people get their rigger ticket with the intention of only working on their and maybe a couple of friend's gear. Then it gets around they are a rigger and are swamped with rigs.


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Can you transfer this to an article (with Derek's permission), that way it would be an easy reference and get it's time on the homepage.
It would also be easier to access in the future.

Hear, Hear!! I second (or is it third that?)
Scars remind us that the past is real

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