Rating Corner | Main Parachute Packers—Now and in the Future
The Rating Corner | Nov 25, 2022
Rating Corner | Main Parachute Packers—Now and in the Future

Michael Knight

Photo above by Niklas Daniel.

Almost every drop zone relies on packers to keep loads turning and jumpers up in the air. As ubiquitous as they are, the Federal Aviation Administration does not currently have an official title or rating for those who pack main parachutes for use by others. To address this, the Parachute Industry Association announced in mid-September that it is proposing that the FAA institute a Main Parachute Packer (MPP) certificate and is seeking input from drop zones on the proposal. In its press release, the PIA Rigging Committee wrote, “The committee is recruiting drop zones to track their current pack-for-pay programs for effectiveness, as well as collecting data on malfunctions whether packed by riggers, under rigger supervision or by the user.” 

The current guidance on main-parachute packing is found in Federal Aviation Regulation 103.43 (a), which states: “The main parachute must have been packed within 180 days before the date of its use by a certificated parachute rigger, the person making the next jump with that parachute, or a non-certificated person under the direct supervision of a certificated parachute rigger.” This rule makes it clear that riggers must directly oversee the work of “non-certificated persons” (aka “packers”), with “direct supervision” clarified in FAR 105.3 as meaning that “a certificated rigger personally observes a non-certificated person packing a main parachute to the extent necessary to ensure that it is being done properly, and takes responsibility for that packing.”

The PIA Rigging Committee’s working group “envisions the MPP certificate to work in conjunction with the current rules that allow anyone to pack a main parachute under the supervision of an FAA-certificated senior or master parachute rigger. But, under the MPP proposal, packers holding the MPP certificate would exercise the same privileges without rigger supervision.”

DZ owner Abbie Mashaal has developed and is administering a pilot program to use as an example of how training for the MPP certificate would work, and PIA is planning to undertake more study and data collection. PIA cautions that “If the MPP certificate comes to fruition, the time frame would be years rather than months. The FAA changes its rules slowly and only after careful consideration.”

In the meantime, drop zones must ensure that non-certificated persons are directly supervised when packing parachutes for others. Since the FAA is the final authority on the interpretation and enforcement of FARs, those with questions about the definition of “direct supervision” or any other nuance should contact their local FAA Flight Standards District Office.

Drop zones who would like more information on the MPP certificate program can access the PIA Rigging Committee’s proposal here: uspa.org/mpp-proposal. Those who have questions or wish to provide input can email mpp.pilot.program@pia.com.

Michael Knight | D-22804
USPA Director of Government Relations

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2 comments on article "Rating Corner | Main Parachute Packers—Now and in the Future"

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Robert Mickle

11/25/2022 7:20 PM

I agree, packers SHOULD be certified/approved/licensed.

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12/23/2022 2:41 PM

This is dumb and will only hurt the industry, further raising jump ticket costs.

What problem is it trying to solve? I've been working full time in the industry for over 6 years and have witnessed no issues that would necessitate such a change.

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