A parachute rigger is a person who knows how to pack, maintain, and repair parachutes. Parachute riggers need to understand fabrics, hardware, webbing, sewing, and other aspects related to the construction, packing, and maintenance of parachutes. For vintage military parachutes, even if it’s a reproduction, the product must be manufactured in accordance with the military specifications of that period.
Joshua DeJong, a homeschool graduate from Casa Grande, Arizona, is a self-taught rigger of parachute systems that replicate those used by the U.S. military in the 1940’s. He has sold his parachutes (shown in photo above) to leading WWII historians and multiple museums. Parachutes that he crafted are displayed in 29 countries on five continents. He even landed a contract for providing parachute equipment used in the Universal Pictures movie Unbroken.
Joshua assembles his museum-quality parachutes based on the original specs and checked against actual examples. All of the materials used in the construction of his chutes – including the webbing, cotton thread, and canvas fabric – were produced during World War II. Joshua even uses a WWII-era Singer 7 class sewing machine to construct his replica parachutes.
Due to the scarcity of one obsolete hardware component, rather than reduce his rigorous standards of authenticity by using a substitute part, Joshua figured out how to reproduce the original part with precision using CAD software. Because of Joshua’s attention to detail, his designs can fool even experienced collectors. In the photo below you can see Joshua’s handmade WWII T-5 and T-7 paratrooper harness assemblies:
Both of the above chutes are featured in the QuestMasters online collection of World War II memorabilia. The T-5 Army Airborne type static line assembly was used during the Normandy Invasion in 1944. It was later replaced by the T-7, which was a similar static line chute with a slightly different design. To learn more about the T-5 and T-7 parachutes, click here and here.
Joshua’s parachute manufacturing business actually started out as a hobby. At the age of nine, while watching The Longest Day movie, he was inspired by watching the allied paratroopers descend into France on D-Day to liberate Europe. Joshua based his initial parachute designs on WWII movie depictions. He built his first prototypes from plastic bags and packing tape, learning hands-on about everything from aerodynamics to tensile strengths.
Joshua also read every WWII parachute-related book he could find, compiled thousands of period photographs, and even purchased real historic parachutes to aid in accurate reproduction. As a result of his extensive research, Joshua is now able to manufacture the finest replica parachute systems for customers around the world. He can also provide extra items such as WWII parachute log records, inspection slips, and parachute manuals which are hard to find.
Joshua sold his first parachute in the winter of 2010. By the time he graduated high school, Joshua had already developed a top-notch reputation as owner/operator of The Rigger Depot. People specifically sought him out, and in some cases, were willing to wait over a year until he was able to produce the specific parachute they desired. Joshua also sells his parachutes on eBay. (Although out of stock at the time of this writing, hopefully he will have another one finished soon. His latest sale was a parachute that went for $391 on 12/27/2014, while others have sold for as much as $995 or more.)
Joshua’s experience is a prime example of how hands-on student-led learning can enhance homeschool studies in a fresh and exciting way, while enabling students to excel in various areas such as starting a business and following their dreams. Homeschooling gave Joshua the freedom to pursue his passion while simultaneously learning valuable life lessons and business skills, including communicating with people from different countries. After graduating from high school and going on a summer mission trip to Thailand, Joshua began college in the Fall of 2014. He plans to get a degree in business management.
Joshua was one of ten finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Click here to read his winning essay.