How do accidents happen? Sometimes, the cause of an accident is hidden. It is an occurrence that is unexpected and unforeseeable. Most of the time, it is not. This video is a case in point.
When we start the video with knowledge that something unfortunate is going to happen, we can all clearly see the mistakes that were made. From our safe vantage point and hindsight, we all say, why didn’t someone say “stop, let’s think about what we are doing here.” The people in the video, however, clearly did not see what was coming, or they would not have made the attempt.
Incidents like this can be expensive, but they can also be completely avoidable. Under normal conditions, a single Tug would have been enough to tow this CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter without even breaking a sweat. Add a steep incline on wet metal grating and you might as well be on ice. What’s the solution you say? Let’s add another Tug to double our chances of success! In the video, the shear pin apparently did what it was designed to do and sheared. A shear pin is a mechanical safety mechanism that is found in every tow bar to prevent overload damage to the aircraft nose gear.
While it appears that military personnel were involved, incidents like these happen all the time at civilian FBO facilities. Being a creative problem solver is a great skill, but it still must be done within the realm of safety. Why was no one riding the brakes in the helicopter to ensure if the aircraft broke free it could be stopped? Was a safety brief conducted prior to attempting the tow? What are the safety concerns for towing an aircraft weighing over 23,000 lbs.? All these questions and more need to be evaluated prior to conducting a job like this.
According to the FAA, part 121 and part 135 operators must establish procedures and guidance for towing. Aircraft ground handling personnel must be familiar with all published towing procedures pertaining to the type of aircraft being towed, along with understanding the associated restrictions and/or limitations of the tow vehicle and/or equipment being used to move an aircraft. (AC 00-65 CHG 1).
For Part 139 airports, there are mandatory requirements for initial, recurrent, and remedial training for personnel operating tow vehicles. Initial training must be conducted for every employee or airport user. Recurrent training must be accomplished every twelve consecutive calendar months. Remedial training is required when a violation of the rules and regulations is committed. (AC 150-5210-20A)
Having the proper safety program and qualified individuals can help avoid situations like the one in the video. Come talk with us if you think your safety program could use a review to avoid situations like this and to ensure compliance with the FAA regulations.