Happy Skydivers from Skydive Orange Under FAA Rigger Packed Parachute

What is an FAA Rigger?

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The world of parachuting can seem quite enigmatic. You might be familiar with the basics – parachutes, planes, and people who eagerly jump out of them. However, there’s much more to it, and if you’re considering getting into skydiving, you probably have a lot of questions! One of the biggest concerns for potential skydivers revolves around the parachute and the experts who ensure they’re always in tip-top shape! 

What is an FAA Rigger?

If you’ve ever wondered what an FAA rigger does, you’re not alone! This vital role ensures the safety and reliability of parachuting equipment, an essential component of skydiving. An FAA rigger – or parachute rigger – is a highly trained professional certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to inspect, pack, and maintain parachutes.

What Does a Parachute Rigger Do? 

Parachute riggers are responsible for packing, unpacking, inspecting, and repairing parachute equipment. This involves a detailed process to ensure every part of the parachute system is in perfect working condition. Riggers also repair and maintain parachutes, addressing any wear and tear that could potentially affect parachute performance.

The FAA parachute rigger is the only person who is qualified to pack, inspect, and repack the reserve parachute. Regular inspections are crucial because reserve parachutes must perform flawlessly every time. If you’re an experienced skydiver with your own gear, you’ll need your reserve parachute inspected and repacked by a certified parachute rigger every 180 days – which is why FAA Parachute Riggers are a staple at any dropzone. 

The main parachute of a dual parachute system can be packed by an FAA rigger, a non-certified person under the direct supervision of a rigger, or the person who intends to use the parachute on the next jump.

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Do You Need a Qualification to Be a Rigger?

Becoming an FAA parachute rigger involves rigorous training. Prospective riggers must attend specialized schools where they learn the necessary skills for several weeks. Training includes hands-on experience in packing parachutes, conducting inspections, and performing repairs. 

How long is parachute rigger school? The length of parachute rigger school can vary, but it typically lasts between three to four weeks. Once completed, you receive your “rigger’s ticket” or rigger license.

There are two distinct rigger certifications in the United States: Senior Rigger and Master Rigger. Each title has different qualifications. 

What is the Difference Between a Senior Rigger and a Master Rigger?

A Senior Rigger is the entry-level version of a certified parachute rigger. To achieve this designation, a candidate must complete several tasks. The potential Senior Rigger must complete a minimum of 20 reserve parachute repacks on either a square or round reserve parachute, under the supervision of a Master Rigger. 

Additionally, the candidate must pass a written and oral test. Finally, to earn the Senior Rigger title, they must also demonstrate the ability to properly maintain and repair parachutes and parachuting equipment

To advance to a Master Parachute Rigger, a Senior Rigger must gain three years of experience and complete a total of 200 reserve pack jobs. Additionally, they must pass another set of oral and practical tests.

Leah Levy | Skydive Orange

Parachute Rigger Careers

Being a parachute rigger is a very respectable job within the world of skydiving – whether you are working in the civilian or military realm, or both! Parachute riggers have a diverse array of career opportunities available to them, thanks to their specialized skills and the critical nature of their work. Here are just a few of the key fields where parachute riggers can find rewarding careers:


  • Skydiving Centers

Skydiving centers are one of the most common employers of parachute riggers. Dropzones rely on riggers to ensure that all parachutes are packed correctly and maintained in top condition. Riggers in these settings not only prepare equipment for experienced skydivers but also support tandem skydivers and students. They play a crucial role in the safety of every jump.

Each dropzone has a “rigging loft” where the parachute rigger performs extremely important duties. At Skydive Orange, we have a full-service parachute rigging loft (Paraloft) with several Senior and Master Riggers on-site to help take care of our jumpers’ reserve parachute packing needs.


  • Military Organizations

Military operations, such as the United States Marine Corps (USMC), employ parachute riggers to maintain the parachutes used in various airborne operations. USMC parachute riggers undergo additional training to handle the specific needs of military parachutes, including those used in combat and training exercises. Their expertise ensures that service members can rely on their equipment in critical situations.


  • Skydiving Rig Companies

Riggers are employed by skydiving rig companies (like Sun Path or UPT) where they use their skills to develop new skydiving parachute equipment or repair customer rigs. This could include roles in research and design.

Additionally, there are freelance careers that could include specialized fields such as scientific experiments, film/stunt industries, and aviation companies. There is even room for career development as a Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner (DPRE).

Do Parachute Riggers Go to Airborne School?

Parachute riggers typically do not attend airborne school, as their focus is on the maintenance and packing of parachutes rather than jumping from an aircraft. While plenty of parachute riggers also enjoy the sport of skydiving in their leisure time, it is not a requirement to become an FAA rigger.

Understanding the critical role of an FAA Parachute Rigger can give you a greater appreciation for the safety and expertise that goes into every skydive. The knowledge, skills, and great care of these professionals ensure that every jump is predicated on safety. 

Interested in watching the magic first-hand? Stop by Skydive Orange to see an FAA rigger at work! And if you’re ready to take to the skies under their handy work, come and jump with us! Blue skies.

Chris Posillico Skydive Orange AFF Student

Chris Posillico

I always felt secure in my actions because I knew that I was well prepared by my instructors and coaches.

The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.

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