"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
The 'Chute Shop
Although their primary function was the care and maintenance of  life saving parachutes and survival equipment, a squadron's parachute riggers also performed another vital function for it's flying personnel by making special modifications to their flight gear on an individual basis. When needed, their skills enabled them, using only the tools and materials at hand in the parachute shop, to design and manufacture their own custom creations if officially sanctioned items, normally available through the Navy's supply system, proved inadequate or were unobtainable. As witnessed by numerous reports in Naval Aviation News, this practice of small unit innovation was encouraged by the BuAer and further helped them to continually develop and mass produce improved equipment for the large scale use of the Naval Air Forces.
Here, we will take a closer look at some examples of the parachute rigger's handiwork, the "rigger made" items that are each "one of a kind".
Let's get started with something we touched on in a previous article (see page 5). When the distress hand smoke signal was developed and issued, there was no prescribed method for carrying it individually. A simple rigger devised solution was found by forming a pocket from rubberized raft material and / or parachute pack canvas that could be cemented between the cells of the life vest. This placement allowed the signals to be easily accessible if needed in an emergency, but kept out of the way when being routinely carried. If you see a Mae West with this modification, you can rest assured it was done by a Navy rigger and worn by a Naval aviator in 1945.   



Below:  Two more variations, sent in by readers "Goz" (see The Lucky Bag, page 2, for the complete vest) and Jerry K. The blue material appears to be the rubberized fabric used for the bottom of life rafts. If in danger of enemy observation, the raft could be flipped blue side up for better camouflage.