At the ever-intriguing 2008 ICAS Convention, ANN's
Editor-In-Chief, Jim Campbell, caught up with Master Rigger, Allen
Silver, to get caught up on parachute regs, technology and
associated issues. Allen is a "Rigger's Rigger" and one of the most
knowledgable guys in the craft.
Allen Silver owns and operates Silver Parachute Sales &
Service in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has been an FAA Master
Rigger since 1974 and in 1991 was designated as a Parachute Rigger
Examiner for the FAA. Allen was recently re-elected and is now the
current chairman of the Parachute Industry Association (PIA)
Rigging Committee. This is a worldwide organization that represents
the parachute industry.
Having spent 25 years with the California Air National Guard,
Allen retired in 1991. Seventeen of those years were spent as a
Survival Equipment Technician working with parachutes, life rafts
and oxygen equipment. This background has been beneficial in
obtaining contracts with NASA and other aerospace companies
requiring services for sophisticated and specialized parachutes. In
1962 at the age of seventeen, Allen made his first parachute jump
in Southern California after watching the old television series
Ripcord. He now has over 3200 parachute jumps as a sport and
Allen noted that there has been some good news, of late, on the
chute scene. Parachutes have benefitted from an extra 60 days
between mandatory repacks of their parachutes, under a revised
regulation published late last year by the FAA. The rule change was
praised by the two organizations which had jointly sought it for
nearly four years, the Parachute Industry Association (PIA) and the
United States Parachute Association (USPA). The revision extends
from 120 to 180 days the period between required inspection and
repacking by a certificated parachute rigger. It takes effect
December 19, 30 days from publication in the Federal Register.
The rule applies to reserve parachutes worn by all skydivers and
smoke jumpers, as well as emergency parachutes worn by pilots of
aerobatic airplanes and gliders, air crew members, and the growing
number of military special ops jumpers using commercial "off the
shelf" parachute equipment.
The US Parachute Association first petitioned the FAA for an
exemption in 1998, but its initiative was rejected in 2001 for what
the FAA found was lack of full industry support. Allen Silver,
chair of the PIA’s Rigging Committee, reignited discussion
with the FAA in early 2005 and USPA joined to form a task group
which submitted a joint petition to the FAA. Other organizations
whose members use parachutes also joined the effort, including the
Experimental Aircraft Association and the Soaring Society of
Initially, the group sought an exemption from the 120-day rule,
but the FAA determined that an exemption would be too broad and a
rule change was more appropriate. It published its proposal for
change in May 2007, as ANN reported. The FAA said in approving the
change that it had received 338 comments about it during the
four-month comment period; only eight commenters explicitly opposed
the new rule.
In justifying the extension, the FAA cited "new reliability data
from the parachute industry and other sources" which indicated that
modern materials and construction techniques made it safe to allow
parachutes to remain packed for a longer period.
"Recently acquired data from the US military, foreign aviation
authorities, and parachute industry representatives suggest that
the current 120-day packing interval is too short, " the FAA said.
"Numerous experts asserted that modern parachute materials last
longer when the packing interval is longer than 120 days and that
too-frequent packing shortens the life of the materials. Those
experts found the parachutes’ porosity was affected by
handling and manipulation of the parachute while being packed."
The longer repack cycle is consistent with US military parachute
regulations, as well as with regulations in many foreign countries.
The FAA noted that it has for some time allowed many foreign
skydivers visiting the US to use reserve parachutes that comply
with their countries’ regulations, "and many of those foreign
parachutists’ countries had much longer repack
The FAA last addressed the repack cycle in 1978, when it
increased the repack period from 60 to 120 days. In making that
change, the FAA noted that modern parachutes were constructed of
synthetic materials far less subject to degradation than parachutes
made of silk, cotton, and other natural fabrics.