Aviation safety investigations & reports

External sling loading accident involving Bell 205, VH-HUE, 39 km south east of Talbingo, New South Wales, on 10 January 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 691KB]

What happened

On the 10 January 2019, a Bell Helicopter 205A-1, registered VH-HUE (HUE), was being used for external sling loading operations near Talbingo, New South Wales with the pilot as the sole occupant. As the helicopter approached the drop‑off site, the load unexpectedly disconnected from the remote cargo hook. One of two ground personnel was struck and seriously injured by the falling load.

What the ATSB found

Despite examination of the involved components, the reason why the load disconnected unexpectedly from the remote cargo hook could not be determined. However, the ATSB found that the loadmasters were not maintaining a safe distance from the load. Their positioning, in combination with the significant movement of the load as it contacted the ground, resulted in one of them being struck and seriously injured.

What's been done as a result

As a result of this accident, all contractors involved reviewed the procedures being used for helicopter lifting operations during this project. They have reviewed the risk controls for receipt and positioning of loads, based on the positioning precision required.

The operator who supplied the loadmasters has reviewed and updated their procedures. They have identified a ‘dynamic exclusion zone’ as a position above a person’s head height that is in the pathway of a potential uncontrolled load that may drop and impact onto a person. In recognition that the zone may vary due to a number of variables, specific guidance will be provided as part of pre‑activity briefings.

The lead contractor is overseeing a range of initiatives, including a behavioural safety review of the project with the intention to implement an appropriately designed program to positively influence behaviours across their projects.

Safety message

This incident highlights the dangers associated with external sling load operations. Unexpected events can occur and ground personnel should ensure they maintain their separation from external slung loads that are above head height. Each sling load operation can be unique, with different locations, load shape and environmental conditions creating different safety considerations. As a consequence, clear written procedures and detailed discussions prior to commencement of each operation are essential to ensure all participants are aware of the unique dangers of the operation.

Transport Canada commissioned a video titled ‘Keep your eyes on the hook’, which shows some of the dangers for ground crew when working around helicopters and longline loads.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 691KB]

The occurrence

General details
Date: 10 January 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1205 AEDT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 39 km SE of Talbingo   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Loading related  
Release date: 10 March 2020   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model Textron 205A-1A  
Aircraft registration VH-HUE  
Serial number 30290  
Operator O'Driscoll Aviation  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point near Tantangara Dam, NSW  
Destination near Tantangara Dam, NSW  
Last update 20 July 2020