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Interesting Question. External Load or Not?


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Here's the senario: (for commercial rated pilots at a location that flies the R22 and R44)

 

A construction job where the customer wants to string a rope across a small lake. The spool of the rope will stay on the ground, the passenger in the R22 or R44 will take the door off, and hold one end of the rope while the helicopter flies (sideways of course to avoid the rope going into the tail rotor)to the other side where the rope will be dropped off. Is this considered External Load? The helicopter will have a rope dangling out of the side of it (but then again banner towing isn't considered external load) and the actual weight of the spool will never be picked up off the ground and the weight will never be loaded on the helicopter. The construction portion is perfectly acceptable under part 119. Can a commercial pilot without external load do this flight?

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I believe you would have to have a Part 133 certificate for this. There are several companies that do something similar called wire pulling. They use a helicopter to pull electrical cables across long expanses. However it is attached to the helicopter. Due to safety considerations, I would not have a person hold the rope. It is much too easy for the person holding the rope to get hurt that way. You open yourself up to all sorts of liability issues.

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Holding on to that much rope with one's hands is going to be difficult at best, and most likely not possible. But it's an external load operation no matter how the rope is attached to the aircraft, be it tied or held by a passenger. You need a Part 133 certificate, and FAA approval. I wouldn't try it. What's wrong with using a boat? Much safer and more reliable.

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Your first test is: can the rope-holder lift the full spool of rope off the ground by himself? If not, forget it. The further you fly, the heavier the load and the pull on the side of the R44 - the pilot will certainly know about it.

Secondly, is there a brake on the spool? Because as the rope is pulled out, it will sag due to gravity and it will unreel the whole shebang into the river, making it even harder to hold onto. But the brake will add more "weight" to the rope and make it harder to pull.

 

Thirdly, at the other end when the passenger drops the rope, it will likely snap back towards the origin, unless some sort of catching device is used. Be careful of it catching on the skids and causing problems.

 

I have strung quite a few power lines and it needs approvals, equipment, training, and above all, teamwork.

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