Above: Robbie Rushton inspects a Javelin that just came into the Sun Path factory for a harness adjustment. Photo by Kevin Gibson.
A Federal Aviation Administration Master Rigger who is trained and practiced on the procedure may resize any fixed, non-adjustable harness on a sewing machine and must perform the work in a manner approved by the manufacturer. Otherwise, the rig must be sent directly to the factory itself. The question is whether your local rigger or the manufacturer would be the better choice.
Some full-service rigging facilities (skydivers term them “lofts”) have the correct equipment, knowledge and experience to perform excellent resizing. Good master riggers don’t work in a vacuum, however. They maintain a close working relationship with each manufacturer of the equipment they service and repair.
Harness design and construction varies widely among brands. A rigger is expected to exercise judgment before adjusting or reconstructing a harness, staying within a comfortable range of knowledge, experience and the capabilities of the available tools and equipment at the loft. Whether it’s training or machines, your rigger might agree to take on one resizing job but defer to the factory on another.
Two advantages to having the work done locally might be time and expense. Robbie Rushton, who oversees the repairs at Sun Path Products in Raeford, North Carolina—the factory that makes Javelins—says he can usually get the job done most quickly in summer. Of course, nobody wants to mail their rig away during high season. Conversely, his crew gets much busier during the U.S. cold season, which understandably extends turnaround time.
So, maybe you’re in a jam to get the used rig you just bought ready for next weekend. In mid-July, a well-equipped and experienced master rigger near your home DZ might better suit your immediate needs. You can skip shipping fees. Plus, some factories, such as Sun Path, tack on a pesky inspection fee for anything coming in the door … which, on second thought, may actually appeal to the new owner of a used rig.
A Javelin sent to Rushton at Sun Path undergoes an experience that appears to be common across the industry: Full factory inspection with particular attention to the issues that commonly occur on that particular model and a list of recommendations or requirements to restore the rig to factory standards. You get your rig back with a possibly slightly higher repair bill than you expected but also the confidence that the factory still stands behind its airworthiness.
And don’t let this get around, but factories are typically generous. In the interest of customer satisfaction, they’ll touch up and update things without adding to the bill. They have all the specially configured and adapted tools and templates at their disposal, plus staff who’ve done these things hundreds of times. So, they can sneak in a repair that will go a long way toward making your rig perform better and last longer and make you a happy user of their product.
On the other hand, your local rigger will generally need to adjust and reconfigure machines set for a previous and very different job, then puzzle out each repair. That adds time and expense to the process. Consequently, when the factory bills for a routine repair that they can knock out in half the time, you may save enough to help offset the inspection and shipping. It may also even out in resale value when you can advertise the work as a factory repair.
When it comes to resizing itself, only the results count. Your local master rigger needs to consult with the manufacturer, regardless of where the work gets done. Avoid just taking an inch out here or there. Work with your rigger to properly measure for that harness (instructions on the manufacturer’s website) and get a resizing reading from the factory experts. You can take a harness apart only once or twice (at the most) before it has to be replaced. This job needs to get done right the first time.
Harness fit matters a lot when you’re getting pre-owned equipment. A good fit keeps your cutaway and reserve handles in the right place when you need them most and keeps your container tightly against your back whether you’re a flopping, freeflying fish or a zooming flying squirrel on an angle dive. Settle for nothing less than perfect: a rig that either fits already or makes a good candidate for a harness trim. Then choose the right professional to do the work.
Kevin Gibson | D-6943 and FAA-Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner
Rahlmo’s Rigging at Skydive Orange in Virginia