Ask a Rigger | May I Pack My Reserve if a Rigger Supervises Me?
Ask A Rigger | Sep 08, 2023
Ask a Rigger | May I Pack My Reserve if a Rigger Supervises Me?

Kevin Gibson

Not if you plan on skydiving with it afterward. Federal Aviation Administration rules—and each new rigger has to pass a test on them—show no mercy to impatient readers. But they’re clear on this point: “The reserve parachute must have been packed by a certificated parachute rigger.” You’ll find this exact wording in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs), often referred to as the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations).

CFR 105.43.b on skydiving reserves, CFR 105.45.2.b.2 on tandem reserves (referring back to 105.43.b) and CFR 91.307, referring to any parachutes carried on board an aircraft for emergency use (reserves), state that they must be “packed by a certificated and rated parachute rigger.” Then the CFRs go on to say how often, etc. Similar but as-clear wording appears in FAA Advisory Circular 105-2e at paragraph 14.a.1: “A certificated and appropriately rated parachute rigger must pack the reserve parachute.”

The FAA grants riggers privileges to supervise some of the duties they’re allowed to perform. Packing a reserve isn’t one of them. The skydiving rules in CFR 105 allow any rigger to supervise any person to pack a main parachute (single jumper or tandem) that can then be jumped by someone else. The rules for riggers in CFR 65.125 spell out that senior and master riggers may, “supervise other persons in packing any type of parachute for which that person is rated in accordance with § 105.43(a) or § 105.45(b)(1) of this chapter,” which refers back to supervising main-parachute packing only.

A master rigger may also supervise maintaining and altering the harness, container and reserve of your parachute system (CFR 65.125.b.2). A senior rigger isn’t afforded that privilege, according to CFR 65.125.a.2.

CFR 65.111.c.2 allows any rigger to supervise maintaining or altering a main parachute, which the Advisory Circular describes as everything you leave up in the sky when you cut away except the reserve static line (AC 105-2e.13.a). The RSL and main container belong to the “approved” portions of the parachute system, along with the harness, reserve container and reserve canopy. So, you can work on your main canopy, pilot chute, deployment bag and risers under the supervision of a senior rigger. A master rigger would have to supervise anything else.

So how does someone get the 20 supervised reserve packs required to become a rigger? Any certificated rigger may supervise those packs if rated for the type: back, seat, chest, or lap (really—lap?). But the rigger legally can’t sign and date the data card and seal the reserve without repacking it.

Since some of the most popular reserve manufacturers limit how many times you can pack their products, it’s maybe a little impractical to use your own reserve for training. Obsolete or worn-out reserves work great for that. They can be found in ex-jumper’s closets and garages and on dusty hangar shelves at a drop zone near you.

If you would feel safer packing your own reserve, then you’ll have to train and test to get the certificate. On the other hand, do you really want your reserve packed by someone who does so only once or twice a year? Instead, how about studying up on it and then supervise as your FAA-certificated parachute rigger airs your rig out, inspects it and expertly packs it back up.

Kevin Gibson | D-6943 and FAA Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner
Rahlmo’s Rigging at Skydive Orange in Virginia

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