As travel restrictions begin to lift, more international skydivers are coming to the United States for jumping holidays and events. As they do so, there are a few regulations that the skydivers themselves and the operators of the drop zones to which they travel need to understand regarding their parachute equipment.
U.S. manufacturers of parachute systems receive Federal Aviation Administration approval in the form of Technical Standard Orders (TSOs). The FAA issues TSOs to parachute systems that comply with the current performance standards at the time they are applied for. These standards specify the tests that a parachute system and its component parts must pass for the FAA to approve it for civilian use.
Federal Aviation Regulations Section 105.49 allows foreign parachutists to jump their non-TSO’d equipment in the U.S. and have their county’s repack rules apply if certain conditions are met:
- The parachute system is worn by the foreign parachutist who is the owner of that system.
- The parachute system is a single-harness, dual-parachute type.
- The parachute system meets the civil aviation authority requirements of their country.
Section 105.49 states, “(4) All foreign non-approved parachutes deployed by a foreign parachutist during a parachute operation conducted under this section shall be packed as follows -
(i) The main parachute must be packed by the foreign parachutist making the next parachute jump with that parachute, a certificated parachute rigger, or any other person acceptable to the Administrator.
(ii) The reserve parachute must be packed in accordance with the foreign parachutist's civil aviation authority requirements, by a certificated parachute rigger, or any other person acceptable to the Administrator.”
Much of the confusion occurs when foreign nationals bring their TSO’d equipment to jump in the U.S. All TSO’d equipment falls under 105.43 (approved equipment), and 105.43 says, “The reserve parachute must have been packed by a certificated parachute rigger.” Odds are, when the visiting foreign national brings their TSO’d rig into the U.S., it has not been packed by an FAA rigger. The reserve will need to be packed by an FAA rigger before it can be jumped in the U.S.
In the end, all U.S. citizens and resident aliens must use TSO’d equipment while skydiving in the U.S. For non-U.S. citizens and non-resident aliens, whether the equipment manufacturer holds a TSO and it bears the appropriate TSO markings determines which regulations must be followed.
The flow chart on the following page will help you understand these regulations and how they may apply to your specific circumstance.
Traveling within the United States
While rigs with or without automatic activation devices are now officially accepted as carry-on and checked items, skydivers may still encounter occasional problems. Transportation Security Administration screeners have a duty to thoroughly inspect parachutes in accordance with standard operating procedures. Screeners have been advised that under no circumstances are they to touch or pull handles or otherwise forcefully open any parachute. Furthermore, if screeners determine that it is necessary to open a rig for complete inspection, the owner of the rig must be present and allowed to assist. For this reason, skydivers are advised to add at least 30 minutes to the airline’s recommended arrival window before any given flight.
The TSA uses a variety of explosive-detection systems at various airports, and USPA has run a variety of rigs with AADs through the systems at a TSA lab. Results show that rigs and components will not trigger explosive-detection systems. However, there are a variety of substances that skydivers may encounter in everyday life that will trigger these systems, including grass fertilizer, fireworks or firearms residue that contains nitrates and hand lotion that contains glycerides. As a result, someone who has recently packed their parachute in grass, walked a golf course, shot off fireworks or firearms or applied hand lotion and then packed their rig for travel may have inadvertently caused their rig to trigger a trace-detection machine, which will require the screener to open a rig for thorough inspection.
Skydivers encountering problems with screeners should request that the screener’s supervisor become involved. Skydivers should insist that the supervisor review “The Parachute Screening section of the Screening Checkpoint Standard Operating Procedure.” More information is available by visiting the Traveling with Parachutes page under the Discover tab at uspa.org.