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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Australia Proposes Risk Assessment for Winching Operations

By Emma Kelly, Australia and Pacific Correspondent

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority has issued a notice of proposed rule-making aimed at improving the safety of helicopter external sling load and winching and rappelling operations in the country. The move follows a number of safety incidents involving such operations in Australia in recent years. In 2013, a man died after falling 30 meters (98 feet) as he was being winched aboard an Ambulance Victoria helicopter after he broke his ankle in a remote location in Victoria, while in 2011 a paramedic died during a winching accident in New South Wales.

CASA says Australia’s current requirements do not reflect the latest concepts in the use of risk assessment and management. Winching and rappelling operations from a helicopter are generally associated with emergency situations and as a result carry a greater inherent risk than other helicopter operations, says CASA. Such operations are also time-sensitive and are often conducted under challenging environmental conditions, it adds.

As a result, CASA is proposing that operators implement pre-flight risk-analysis procedures and document them in their operations manuals. “CASA considers that pre-flight risk analysis will help prevent accidents by enabling risk mitigation strategies prior to the commencement of the flight,” the NPRM states.

CASA notes that helicopter operations are becoming more complex and diverse, particularly sling load operations, and current civil aviation orders do not adequately address the many and varied situations, particularly in or near populous areas where the overall risk of the operation is potentially very high. CASA has called for submissions by June 27 and is looking at any proposed rules coming into effect in the fourth quarter of this year, with a six-month transition period.

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