The FAA has issued a safety alert for operators (SAFO)–13010–to outline current guidance and best practices for Part 133 external load operators using non-human external cargo (NHEC).
The agency released the November 4 SAFO in response to an accident on December 15 last year involving a helicopter conducting Part 133 external-load operations with a synthetic external-load line and no swivel device connected between the NHEC and the line. During forward flight the continuously spinning load was unintentionally released when the external-load line broke. The remaining line then became entangled in the tail rotor. The helicopter crashed, seriously injuring the pilot and substantially damaging the helicopter.
The guide explains the importance of a swivel device and recommends what actions operators should take so that a spinning load does not affect the safety of flight. The precautions are especially important when an operator is rigging loads or load configurations it has not worked with before, particularly those known to rotate.
The document also recommends that Part 133 operators train pilots and ground personnel thoroughly and conduct briefings before each operation begins.