Riggers Begin Using Lead-Seal Alternatives
Industry News | Jun 11, 2024
Riggers Begin Using Lead-Seal Alternatives

Kevin Gibson

Mylar seal

Plastic seal

Drop zones should soon expect to see alternatives to lead seals as riggers in the U.S. migrate to pressure-sensitive adhesive paper, tamper-evident mylar or plastic substitutes for the traditional lead slugs. The Parachute Industry Association published Technical Bulletin TB-266 in February stating its position on the subject that concludes, “The Parachute Industry Association sees no impediment to immediate implementation of the use of the alternative means of sealing auxiliary or emergency parachutes explored by the Rigging Committee.”

In response to a request from a Federal Aviation Administration official, the Rigging Committee of the Parachute Industry Association researched both legal and practical aspects of alternative sealing methods. In many European countries, the use of lead seals is already prohibited. The committee found nothing in FAA regulations requiring the use of a lead slug for the seal.

Since membership in the committee is international, much is already known about the use of plastic slugs and pressure-sensitive adhesive sealing methods. Rigger-members who participated in the study reported no significant disadvantages to the alternatives they tested, although some plastic seals required more pressure than lead in the traditional seal press.

Custom-printed paper and seals readily available online allow more information than the required three-character rigger’s seal symbol, such as the rigger’s name, certificate number and even sequential numbering used to protect the rigger from data record alteration (pencil packing).

Current regulations in 14 CFR 65.133 still require each rigger to “have” a seal press, and that “he shall seal the pack with his seal in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation.” Manufacturers represented on the PIA Rigging Committee and others the committee surveyed expressed no reservations and have been asked to accommodate alternatives to lead in future versions of manuals that include sealing instructions. Not all manuals do.

Kevin Gibson | FAA Master Rigger, DPRE
Rhalmo’s Rigging in Orange, Virginia

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