Aviation safety issues and actions

Requirement to confirm hover reference

Issue number: AO-2009-068-SI-01
Who it affects: Helicopter operator
Issue owner: Australian Helicopters Pty Ltd
Transport function: Aviation: General aviation
Background: Investigation Report AO-2009-068
Issue release date: 21 January 2011
Current issue status: Adequately addressed
Issue status justification:

Revised procedure will emphasise the importance of adequate hover reference.

Safety issue description

The operator’s winching procedure did not include the requirement to confirm adequate hover reference existed overhead an intended winch area prior to deploying personnel on the winch.

Proactive Action

Action number: AO-2009-068-NSA-050
Action organisation: Australian Helicopters
Date: 21 January 2011
Action status: Closed

Shortly after this occurrence, the operator issued a flying staff instruction reemphasising the hazards and risks associated with winching operations. The instruction detailed the importance of adequate power margins and hover reference and that, where practical, they should be assessed over the intended winch area at the intended hover height. The instruction also stated that where it was expected that the hover reference may be inadequate, the reference was to be assessed overhead the intended winch location prior to lowering personnel below the level of any obstructions or recovering personnel.

The operator also conducted a review of the section of the operations manual concerning winching operations. An initial review, conducted shortly after the occurrence, concluded that the content was appropriate and contained sufficient guidance. Subsequently a more detailed review of the operations manual, taking into account a number of established best practice procedures within the industry, was initiated. This ongoing review, including the development of an appendix detailing winching to ships, will include emphasis on the need to ensure that adequate hover reference exists during the conduct of winching operations.

ATSB comment:

The ATSB is satisfied that the action by the helicopter manufacturer will, once in place, adequately address the safety issue.

Last update 28 February 2014