2023 Synergy Aviation crash: Long load line snags railing, causing incident

Pilot suffers serious injuries form incident

2023 Synergy Aviation crash: Long load line snags railing, causing incident

A 100-foot longline and cargo net snagged a railing on the work platform, and that caused the incident that led to serious injuries to a Synergy Aviation back in 2023, according to a report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

On Aug. 25, 2023, the Robinson Helicopter Company (RHC) R44 II helicopter – operated by Synergy Aviation Ltd. – picked up an empty cargo net at a multi-gas well battery, approximately 13 nautical miles west of the base.

When the helicopter arrived at the site, he landed near a work platform but did not shut down the helicopter. Then, he exited the helicopter and connected the 100-foot longline and cargo net – which was on the platform – to the cargo hook of the helicopter. 

The pilot then got back in the running helicopter and lifted off into a hover.

During the vertical climb, the pilot observed – through the window in the pilot’s door – that the longline and cargo net. Once the helicopter had cleared the work platform, the pilot began forward flight toward the next site.

However, unknown to the pilot, the longline had snagged a railing on the work platform. This caused the pilot to lose control of the helicopter.

“During the transition to forward flight, the helicopter did not respond to the pilot’s flight control inputs,” said TSB.

“As the pilot attempted to maintain control of the helicopter, the main rotor rpm began to decay. Given the likelihood of a crash, the pilot steered the helicopter away from the piping and tanks, subsequently colliding with terrain at 0931. The longline remained attached to the helicopter and the work platform railing.”

The pilot was seriously injured in the incident.

Source: Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB)

After the crash, the pilot was able to contact company personnel by pushing a button on the satellite tracking/emergency messaging system unit.

Company personnel then contacted first responders. The pilot used his cellphone to text personnel in the area for help. Within 20 minutes of sending the first text, he received first aid from another helicopter pilot who had landed at the accident site.

Approximately one hour later, the pilot was airlifted to hospital by air ambulance helicopter.

“The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) require that operators train their crew for the aerial work to be conducted, in this case external load operations,” said TSB. “In addition, the Commercial Air Services Standards describe the ground and air emergency training related to external load operations. The company did not have specific emergency training involving external loads or related equipment.”

Synergy Aviation safety precautions

Following the incident, Synergy Aviation Ltd. sent out an internal memo noting the following required actions:

  • All loads are to be set and removed from the ground adjacent but clear of the platforms.
  • All lanyards with the spring latch systems are to be removed from service and replaced with a locked latch style hook with a manual release.
  • All longline operations require the pilot to remove the aircraft door to ensure the best visibility of the external load and/or end of the longline.
  • A review of all operations associated with the pilot operating contracts as well as site hazard identification.

“Including emergency procedures in external load training helps prepare pilots to respond appropriately to emergencies during external load operations, said TSB. “It is important for operators that conduct external load operations to use equipment that mitigates or eliminates snagging risks.”