8900.1 CHG 529

VOLUME 3  General technical administration


Section 3  Evaluate a Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual


A.    For Initial Certification: 1302.

B.    Revisions: 1303.

3-4127    OBJECTIVE. Ensure that an operator’s Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (RLCFM) meets regulatory requirements and provides adequate procedures and guidance for safely conducting external-load operations. Successful completion of this task results in the approval of an RLCFM as part of a package of documents required for initial certification, the addition of a specific class of authorization, or the disapproval of an RLCFM.

3-4128    GENERAL.

A.    Authority. Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 133, § 133.47 requires the operator to develop an RLCFM as part of the application package for certification of rotorcraft external-load operations.

1)    Section 133.47(a) requires the RLCFM to include the operating limitations, procedures, performance, and other information established under this subpart of 14 CFR. This also includes the information established during operational flight checks performed under § 133.41.
2)    The operator should place limitations, procedures, performance, and other information not included in the approved Rotorcraft Flight Manual (RFM) into the RLCFM. (See Volume 2, Chapter 7, Section 1.)
Indicates new/changed information.

B.    Content. Section 133.47 outlines instructions and specifications for the contents of the RLCFM. Title 14 CFR part 27 subpart G or part 29 subpart G, whichever is applicable, requires the establishment of operating limitations and other information necessary for safe operation. The RLCFM provides a means of conveying this information to the crewmembers.

C.    Purpose. The RLCFM provides the information necessary for the safe carriage of external loads.

D.    Developing an RLCFM. The RLCFM must cover each class of external-load operation conducted with a specific rotorcraft.

1)    The operator must prepare an RLCFM for each rotorcraft, even if some makes and models are similar. The manufacturer’s calculation of performance data and operating limitations may be unique for each rotorcraft.
2)    An operator planning to add or delete a load class must revise the RLCFM accordingly to reflect the safety considerations.

E.    Initiation. The applicant for a part 133 external-load Operating Certificate must submit two copies of an RLCFM for review and approval or one electronic copy, if acceptable, to the Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). The applicant must prepare the RLCFM in conformance with part 27 subpart G or part 29 subpart G.

F.    Operator Briefing. The inspector usually advises an operator on how to prepare the RLCFM. Use the sample RLCFM (Figure 3-133, Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual) as a guide for the operator. However, the operator’s RLCFM is not limited to the sample given. For example, information pertinent to any optional equipment that affects procedures (normal and emergency) during external-load operations, such as supplemental portable safety devices (PSD), should also be included in the applicable section(s) as determined by the operator. The operator should describe the step-by-step actions that personnel must perform to ensure compliance with the regulation. The inspector may brief the operator informally during a telephone conversation or in person as described in Volume 2, Chapter 7, Section 1.


A.    An Acceptable Level of Report. An RLCFM is complete and acceptable if it reports all of the items enumerated in subparagraph 3-4133C, fulfills the requirements of part 27 subpart G or part 29 subpart G, and contains complete and accurate figures.

B.    Determine Authorized Weights. Use the following methods to assess how maximum authorized weights are determined:

1)    Determine the maximum external-load weight for each load class for which the operator requested approval. Record the maximum weight in the “weight authorized” column on the reverse of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Form 8710-4, Rotorcraft External-Load Operator Certificate Application. This weight is the attaching means’ maximum weight capacity.
2)    Some rotorcraft authorizations allow operation at weights above the normal maximum gross weight when the cargo hook carries the excess weight. The RFM or RFM Supplement (RFMS) describes these higher weights. Sometimes a rotorcraft may have other approved special equipment installed that lowers or raises the maximum attaching means’ weight. The “limitations and remarks” column of the inspector report (reverse side of FAA Form 8710-4) should reflect any information concerning a maximum weight limit or a special equipment installation the inspector may wish to enter.
3)    Many other factors affect the maximum weight that a rotorcraft could carry. The operator should clearly delineate those factors within the RLCFM. Each operator should develop procedures to guide their pilots in calculating the various factors that affect rotorcraft performance. Maximum weights based on rotorcraft structural limitations are not the only limiting factor. Some other considerations are rotorcraft empty weight, fuel required for operation, fuel reserve, crew weight, density altitude, and one-engine-inoperative performance. The RLCFM should discuss each of the factors and describe how the pilot applies them to each external-load operation.
4)    Table 3-122, Weight Calculation, shows one way to calculate weight.

C.    Center of Gravity (CG) Considerations. The RLCFM should contain information for use by the pilot in determining both the longitudinal and the lateral CG.

1)    The RLCFM must contain information for calculating longitudinal and lateral CG (when lateral information is available) for each class of external-load authorized, or reference the RFM for this information.
2)    The RLCFM must contain a list of maximum airspeeds and weights for each load class demonstrated during operational flight checks. If the RLCFM was written before these were accomplished, return the document after the flight checks, and have the operator put the list in the RLCFM.

Table 3-122.  Weight Calculation

Maximum gross weight            ____________


Rotorcraft empty weight          ____________


Fuel required for operation      ____________


Fuel reserve                              ____________


Pilot weight                              ____________


Maximum authorized weight   ____________

(not to exceed maximum gross weight or maximum attaching means weight)

Indicates new/changed information.

3-4130    REVISIONS. The inspector must approve RLCFM revisions before printing and distribution. Revisions must also conform to regulatory requirements. If a printed and distributed RLCFM revision does not conform to the appropriate regulations or the Operating Certificate, the inspector should immediately notify the operator in writing, requesting appropriate action to resolve the problems (see Figure 3-134, Sample Letter Rejecting Rotorcraft‑Load Combination Flight Manual or Proposed Revision). For subsequent revisions to the RLCFM, the inspector needs to sign only the record of revisions, the table of contents, and the revised pages. Alternatively, if the operator includes a List of Effective Pages (LEP) or control page, the inspector may approve revisions by signing only these pages.


A.    Prerequisites. This task requires knowledge of part 133 regulatory requirements and FAA policies, qualification as an aviation safety inspector (ASI) (Operations), and experience as a rotorcraft external-load pilot.

B.    Coordination. This task requires coordination with the airworthiness unit, and may require coordination with the Aircraft Certification Office (ACO).


A.    References (current editions):

    Title 14 CFR Parts 1, 21, 27, 29, 91, and 133;

    Approved RFM;

    Advisory Circular (AC) 91-32, Safety In and Around Helicopters;

Indicates new/changed information.

    AC 133-1, Rotorcraft External-Load Operations;

    SAFO 13010, Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 133 and Spinning Loads;

    InFO 12015, Classifying and Using a Belly Band System as a Portable Safety Device (PSD) in Part 133 Operations;

    FAA-H-8083-1, Aircraft Weight and Balance Handbook; and

    PTRS Procedures Manual (PPM).

B.    Forms. None.

C.    Job Aids:

    Sample RLCFM, and

    Sample letters and figures.

3-4133    PROCEDURES.

A.    Brief the Applicant. Advise the operator to develop a document describing the procedures to be used to comply with the requirements outlined in subparagraph 3-4133C. Inform the applicant that the RLCFM must be approved by the inspector prior to use.

B.    PTRS. Open the PTRS record.

C.    RLCFM Contents. Review the RLCFM for completeness of content and accuracy of the figures. Refer to §§ 133.41, 133.43, 133.45, and 133.47 for a list of requirements that the RLCFM must meet. (Figure 3-133 contains a sample RLCFM. This sample is not all-inclusive and the operator’s RLCFM should be tailored to address applicable information related to optional equipment used.)

1)    The RLCFM should state the operating limitations, normal and emergency procedures, performance, and other applicable information from part 27 subpart G or part 29 subpart G, whichever is applicable. It should also contain guidelines for the appropriate control of spinning loads and consideration for the use of a swivel device. If conducting Class D loads, the RLCFM must contain the performance data required to calculate hover capability with one engine inoperative throughout a permissible weight and altitude range per § 133.45(e)(1).
2)    Section 133.47(b) requires the RLCFM to set forth the Classes (A, B, C, D) of demonstrated airworthiness of the rotorcraft.
3)    The RLCFM must include a section that gives the following information:
a)    Information on any peculiarities discovered when operating with particular rotorcraft-load combinations (RLC);
b)    Precautionary advice about static electricity discharges for Class B and D loads;
c)    Procedures for computing lateral and longitudinal CG, if not adequately described in the RFM (the applicant usually must compute the lateral CG for each class when lateral information is available); and
d)    Any other information considered essential for the safe operation of external loads.
4)    The RLCFM must have a list of the maximum airspeeds and weights demonstrated while performing operational flight checks conducted by the manufacturer or the operator.

D.    Results of RLCFM Evaluation.

1)    If the RLCFM is satisfactory, the certification project manager (CPM) (for an initial certification) or the principal operations inspector (POI) (for an existing operator) approves the RLCFM per Volume 2, Chapter 1, Section 1. Return the original to the operator and keep a copy for the file.
2)    If the RLCFM is unsatisfactory, notify the operator in writing, indicating the areas of deficiency (see Figure 3-134).
a)    Return the RLCFM for correction.
b)    Keep a copy of the letter sent to the operator in the file until the return of the corrected RLCFM.

E.    Revisions. Inform the applicant that to revise the RLCFM, the applicant sends the original of the revision, one copy of the revision, and a new page control sheet or LEP (if used) to the inspector.

1)    Evaluate the revision as per original RLCFM approval.
2)    Approve or reject the revision as per original RLCFM approval.

F.    PTRS. Close the PTRS record.

3-4134    TASK OUTCOMES. Completion of this task results in either of the following:

    An approved RLCFM or an approved revision; or

    A letter indicating disapproval of the RLCFM.

3-4135    FUTURE ACTIVITIES. Review and approval of any revisions to the RLCFM.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual


[Date submitted for approval]

Modify this sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (RLCFM) to reflect limitations and procedures applicable to a specific external-load operator and the specific rotorcraft and load classes for which approval is given.

Rotorcraft Registration Number: N

Rotorcraft Make and Model:

FAA-Approved [date]

[Principal operations inspector’s (POI) signature]       [Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)]

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)



1.  Certification

2.  Persons Aboard

3.  Congested Area Operations

4.  Knowledge and Skills

5.  Required Documentation

6.  Weight and Load Combination

7.  Center of Gravity (CG)

8.  Other Limitations


1.  Information Peculiar to the Load Combination

2.  Required Inspections

3.  Static Electricity Discharges

4.  Other Information Essential to Operational Safety

5.  Ground-to-Air Hand Signals

6.  External-Load Securing Procedures

7.  Fuel Burnoff/Center of Gravity (CG)

8.  Required Placards

9.  Operating Procedures

10. Safety Precautions


1.  General

2.  Flight and Non-Flightcrew Personnel

3.  Safety Around Helicopters



Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Section 1.  Operating Limitations

In addition to the operating limitations set forth in the approved Rotorcraft Flight Manual (RFM), operate this rotorcraft in accordance with the following operating limitations.

Indicates new/changed information.

1.  Certification. No person may operate this rotorcraft with an external load unless that person holds an FAA Rotorcraft External-Load Operating Certificate and has a letter of competency or an entry in his or her logbook, as required by Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 133, § 133.37(a)(2). The letter of competency or the knowledge and skill test logbook endorsement must be in that person’s possession while conducting operations under part 133.

2.  Persons Aboard. No person who is not a required crewmember may fly aboard the rotorcraft unless that person performs an essential function in connection with the external-load operation. When the rotorcraft used requires a hoist operator, the air crewmember must wear an approved hoist operator’s safety harness while not seated with a seatbelt fastened.

3.  Congested Area Operations. Do not conduct operations over congested areas unless approved by the FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) in accordance with a congested area plan (CAP) developed in compliance with § 133.33(d)(1) and (2). (See sample plan in Appendix 1.)

4.  Knowledge and Skills. No person may serve as a pilot of this rotorcraft during external-load operations, unless that person has passed the knowledge and skill tests required by § 133.23 for the class of operation being conducted.

5.  Required Documentation. A copy of the Rotorcraft External-Load Operating Certificate and RLCFM will be on board this rotorcraft during all external-load operations.

6.  Weight and Load Combination. The total weight of this rotorcraft and load combination may not exceed:

Make and model                                                                   N-number                                                

Class A load max weight                           # not to exceed maximum gross weight                            

Maximum forward airspeed                                   knots      Other                                                       

Make and model                                                                   N-number                                                

Class B load max weight                           # not to exceed maximum gross weight                            

Maximum forward airspeed                                   knots      Other                                                       

Exercise extreme caution when carrying Class B external loads because the size and shape of the cargo can affect controllability.

Make and model                                                                   N-number                                                

Class C load max weight                           # not to exceed maximum gross weight                            

Maximum forward airspeed                                   knots      Other                                                       

7.  Center of Gravity (CG). The location of the CG for this rotorcraft and load combination must be within the CG range established during type certification under 14 CFR part 27 or 29 or special purpose certification of the rotorcraft.

Indicates new/changed information.

8.  Other Limitations. Other limitations deemed necessary by the operator or contained in the RFM or the RFM Supplements (RFMS).

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Section 2.  Load-Combination Information

1.  Information Peculiar to the Load Combination. The operator will list information pertaining to the peculiarities of the load combination, such as the following:

    Oscillating tendencies,

Indicates new/changed information.

    Spinning loads and the appropriate use of swivels,

    Ground effect,

    Density altitude,

    Strong or gusty winds,

    Abrupt control movements,

    Acceleration limitation,

    Maximum Class A lateral load imbalance, and

    Lateral CG calculation procedure.

This is an example of information that may be applicable to some types of cargo attach devices:

“Lift the cargo load to a hover, then check the remaining power to determine if there is enough to carry the load safely. While hovering, verify that directional control is adequate. When moving into horizontal flight, use smooth, slow control movements to minimize settling and to prevent the load from swinging. In climbing forward flight, check for hazardous oscillations of the external load. When approaching a landing area with a load, identify the delivery point and come in slowly, into the wind, at the shallowest possible angle, ensuring that the load clears all obstructions safely. Start bringing in power early to slow your descent and forward airspeed, ending in a hover short of the release point and in view of any ground crew personnel. Follow ground signal instructions to hover over the release point. Place the load on the ground without any movement of the load. When the helicopter is stabilized over the load and has slack in the sling, open the cargo hook by normal means. In the event of electrical failure, use the manual release to drop the cargo load. If any difficulties arise during the flight that warrant an emergency landing, release the load immediately. If for some reason the load will not release, do not drag the load on the ground before touchdown. This may cause the rotorcraft to nose over with inadequate aft cyclic control to compensate.”

2.  Required Inspections. Inspect the cargo sling or basket for proper installation and overall condition. Check the load to ensure proper and safe rigging. For Class B and C loads, check the electrical release and the manual release on the ground before flight. Arm the circuit by pushing the cargo release circuit breaker in.

3.  Static Electricity Discharges. Before attaching the cargo hook to the load, make sure to ground the rotorcraft to dissipate charges of static electricity that may have built up during flight.

Indicates new/changed information.

4.  Other Information Essential to Operational Safety. The operator must set forth any other information essential for safe operation with external loads, such as:

a.  Class B Human External Cargo (HEC) Operations.

b.  Class B HEC Training.

(1)  Pilot Training. Helicopter operators should select only those pilots that have demonstrated a sufficient level of experience, skill, and ability within Class B vertical reference operations. Class B HEC pilot training should be conducted by an operator’s Chief Pilot or the Chief Pilot’s qualified designee. Pilot training should be conducted and documented in accordance with the operator’s Class B HEC training program and should contain, but is not limited to, the following minimum curriculum:

    Knowledge and skill training;

    Demonstrated proficiency with precision vertical reference load placement;

    Proper load configuration, use, and application of Class B HEC;

    Installation, inspection, and operation of secondary safety device(s);

    Acceptance or rejection criteria of HEC attaching means to include long lines, chairs, and/or harnesses;

    Hazard identification, risk analysis, and mitigation;

    Crew Resource Management (CRM);


    Normal/abnormal and emergency procedures pertinent to Class B HEC operations;

    Electrical wire environment hazards; and

    Fuel management.

(2)  Crewmember Training.
(a)  Crewmembers working on or around the helicopter should be trained by a competent person in the following areas:

1.  Acceptance or rejection criteria of HEC attaching means to include long lines, chairs, and/or harnesses.

2.  Task-specific operations.

3.  Hazard identification, risk analysis, and mitigation.

4.  CRM.

5.  Communication:

    Emergency procedures pertinent to Class B HEC operations,

    Ground, and


6.  Mock-up training and review of:

    Rigging inspection and acceptance or rejection criteria of equipment,

    Communication procedures, and

    Simulation of task (both crew and pilot tasks).

7.  Documented completed proficiency on all of the above.

(b)  Each operator is responsible to ensure that the individuals providing crewmember training have sufficient experience with Class B HEC operations, safe rigging, and fall protection. Additionally, competent instructors should have working knowledge and understanding of the particular risks associated with the specific operation being conducted.
(3)  Recurrent Training. Both pilots and crewmembers should receive recurrent Class B HEC training annually. Additional training should be conducted and documented for each new operation type, equipment change, or when the mission profile is significantly modified.
(4)  Recent Experience. Each operator should have a recent experience program that is designed to ensure each pilot and crewmember is prepared to perform Class B HEC safely and has conducted Class B HEC or equivalent precision operations within a specified period of time. An individual’s recent experience must be obtained from the company’s specific operations and should not carry over from outside experience.

c.  Personnel Qualifications.

(1)  Pilot Qualifications. Helicopter pilots selected to perform Class B HEC operations should have previous experience with HEC operations and should be trained for safe operations within the HEC operating environment. Operators should establish minimum sufficient experience levels to serve as a basic qualification threshold. Considerations of such minimum experience may include:

    2,000 hours as pilot in command (PIC) in helicopters;

    500 hours of vertical reference long line experience;

    200 hours as PIC in specific type of the helicopter to be used in the Class B HEC operation;

    200 hours as PIC conducting precision vertical reference, long line operations;

    Knowledge of the hazards and “hands-on” operations to be conducted;

    Fitness for duty and physical or psychological limitations (IMSAFE);

    Communications limitations; and

    Understanding of the five hazardous attitudes and their antidotes: anti-authority, impulsive, invulnerability, macho, and resignation.

(2)  Crewmember Qualifications.
(a)  Not all crewmembers will be comfortable with or qualified to perform Class B HEC operations. All crewmembers should be selected for Class B HEC operations on a voluntary basis. Crewmembers selected should be qualified for Class B HEC operations based on:

    Experience level;

    Knowledge of aircraft limitations, including weight limitations to meet aircraft performance limitations;

    Knowledge of the “hands-on” operations to be conducted;

    Fitness for duty and physical or psychological limitations (IMSAFE);

    Communications limitations; and

    Understanding of the five hazardous attitudes and their antidotes: anti-authority, impulsive, invulnerability, macho, and resignation.

(b)  Thorough training of both pilots and crewmembers is critical to safely conducting Class B HEC operations. The following topics should be developed and integrated into an operator’s Class B HEC training program:

    General helicopter safety training,

    Applicable regulations pertaining to Class B HEC operations, and

    Company-specific requirements and limitations.

d.  Class B HEC Briefings.

(1)  The daily briefing should be attended by all persons involved in the operations for that particular day. The briefing should cover concerns, identified risks, and hazards. Additionally, this briefing should cover:
(a)  Defining the core operational and individual tasks for the day;
(b)  Identifying specific hazards;
(c)  Discussing hazard and risk mitigation;
(d)  Communication issues;
(e)  Weather conditions and forecasts (i.e., wind gusts, lightning, or other weather factors that could increase risk);
(f)  Any revisions to the site-specific safety plan;
(g)  Universal “go/no-go” authority;
(h)  Pre-operation reconnaissance flight;
(i)  Personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the task;
(j)  Reviewing key points of the Emergency Action Plan; and
(k)  Weight and Balance (W&B) calculation.
(2)  An additional briefing should be conducted upon any significant change in the daily operations which was not covered by the daily briefing.

e.  Operational Safety Considerations.

(1)  When selecting crewmembers for Class B HEC, care should be given to ensure that those individuals with the least experience and knowledge be paired with qualified crewmembers experienced in Class B HEC operations (no green on green).
(2)  Each aircraft used for Class B HEC operations should be subject to daily engine power assurance checks and trend monitoring.

f.  Communications. Prior to any Class B HEC operation, it is essential that all crewmembers and the pilot have established a clear method of communication. This may consist of hand signals and/or two-way radio communications. Communications should be tested prior to each day’s operation. When there are communication failures or confusion, operations should be suspended until clear communications are restored.

g.  Precautions to Avoid High-Tension Wires.

h.  Lightning (Class C Loads).

i.  Radio Communications Procedures.

j.  Crossing Over Main Highways.

k.  Procedures for the Placement of Cargo at Delivery (may vary according to a specific operation class).

l.  Night Operation Considerations, Limitations, Training, and Risk Mitigation Procedures (if applicable).

(1)  It is more dangerous to conduct rotorcraft external-load operations during darkness; therefore, extensive training and detailed planning become increasingly important. In accordance with § 133.47, the RLCFM must set forth any other information essential for safe operation with external loads. With regard to night operations, this information should include, at a minimum, adequate considerations, limitations, training, and risk mitigation procedures describing how the operator will conduct operations at night.
(2)  It is important to realize that certain problems will exist at night that do not occur during daylight operations. Common night problems include increased time required for hookup, tendency for the helicopter to drift during hover, and lack of depth perception for crewmembers and ground personnel. During night operations, hand-and-arm signals are the same as daylight operations except that flashlight wands or other visible light sources are used.
(3)  Whenever possible, and if the situation permits, personnel should wear reflective vests. Manmade securable lighting (e.g., chemlights, battery powered light source, etc.) attached to the top of the load assists the aircrew in identifying the load; likewise, a chemlight attached to the cargo hook aids the hookup team during the hookup operation. Some helicopters are equipped with lights positioned by the cargo hook. The aircrew identifies the cargo hook by illuminating the cargo hook light.

5.  Ground-to-Air Hand Signals. All personnel engaged in the external-load operation will be familiar with and use the hand signals found in Appendix 2. (List the procedures used to ensure familiarity.)

6.  External-Load Securing Procedures. Use the company procedures to make precautionary landings in the event the securing devices become disconnected or loose.

7.  Fuel Burnoff/Center of Gravity (CG). Fuel burnoff and how it may affect the CG en route.

8.  Required Placards.

Indicates new/changed information.

a.  Place a placard for the maximum weight of the external load on each side of the fuselage near the external‑load hook or basket if a Class A load.

b.  Install an instrument panel placard describing load class approval and passenger occupancy limitations.

9.  Operating Procedures. After directing the helicopter into position, one ground crewmember should remain within sight of the pilot to give positive direction with hand signals, or remain in direct radio contact with the pilot, while an appropriate number of other crewmembers attend to the cargo hookup. Hasten all hookups made to the helicopter while it is in a hover to minimize the time the hookup personnel spend underneath the helicopter.

a.  If performing a hookup without the aid of a ground guide and without using direct visual operational contact, an air crewmember should lie prone on the floor and look downward from the main entrance doorway to observe the actions of the ground crewmembers; this crewmember can direct the pilot via the intercom.

Indicates new/changed information.

b.  It is relatively common, however, for a pilot to hover while ground personnel hook the line to the cargo hook. Regardless of whether there are extra crewmembers to act as observers, a thorough briefing between the pilot and the hookup person is extremely important. The hookup person should approach and proceed beneath the helicopter directly from the front, between the skids or landing gear. Should the helicopter experience catastrophic failure and be forced to land, the hookup person should retreat directly to the front. This technique avoids the confusion of “you go right, and I will go left.”

c.  Crewmembers should wear approved safety harnesses and be attached to an aircraft’s approved attachment point when not seated with seatbelts fastened.

d.  When giving hand signals to the pilot, a ground crewmember must stand in front of and to the pilot’s side of the helicopter, within sight of the pilot. See Appendix 2 for hand signals.

10.  Safety Precautions. Conduct all Class D operations using only FAA-approved personnel lifting devices. The crew must calculate one-engine-inoperative hover capability at the operating weight and altitude prior to each Class D operation. Conduct each operation with a minimum of two crewmembers onboard the helicopter. Maintain intercom communication between the pilot and other crewmember. This second crewmember must be able to advise the pilot of the status of the lift device and be able to release the empty device should it become necessary. This release must require two separate and distinct actions: arming the system and depressing the release button. Where possible, a third person associated with the lift will be in position on the surface and communicating by radio with the pilot. This person’s purpose is to advise the pilot of any safety-related item and to supervise the loading or unloading of the personnel lifting device. Further, this person should ensure not to exceed the pilot-determined maximum weight appropriate for this operation.

The operating limitations as set forth in Section 1 and the load combination information contained in Section 2 are the conditions under which I will conduct this rotorcraft external-load combination operation.


Operator’s signature

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Section 3.  Information

All personnel associated with an external-load operation should be familiar with the following information.

1.  General. Serious injuries and fatalities may occur if personnel are not trained on the proper method for approaching or leaving the rotorcraft. The simplest method of avoiding accidents of this sort is to have the rotors stopped when non-flightcrew personnel are working around the rotorcraft. Because this is not always practical, it is essential that all persons associated with helicopter operations be aware of all possible hazards and instructed in how to avoid them.

Indicates new/changed information.

2.  Flight and Non-Flightcrew Personnel. Instruct persons directly involved with boarding or deplaning personnel, rotorcraft servicing, rigging, or hooking up of external loads, etc., in their duties. Types of crew training related to the safe operation of helicopters include, but are not limited to, the following:

a.  Ground Crew. Instruct ramp attendants and rotorcraft servicing personnel in safe means of accomplishing their specific duties. This includes:

(1)  Keeping persons scheduled to board and unauthorized persons away from the helicopter landing and takeoff areas.
(2)  Briefing boarding personnel on the best way to approach and board a helicopter whose rotors are turning.

b.  Servicing. Proper procedures for rotorcraft servicing include the following:

(1)  Stop the helicopter rotor blades and properly ground both the rotorcraft and the refueling unit before any refueling operation. The pilot should ensure the use of the proper fuel grade and any required additives.
(2)  Refueling the rotorcraft while the blades are turning (hot refueling) may be practical for certain types of operations. However, this can be extremely hazardous when safe procedures are not followed. Pilots should remain at the flight controls during fueling; refueling personnel should be knowledgeable about proper refueling procedures and properly briefed for specific makes and models of rotorcraft. Refueling personnel must communicate with the pilot by radio or using hand signals during hot refueling.
(3)  Position refueling units to ensure adequate rotor blade clearance; keep persons not involved with the refueling operation clear of the area. Verify disconnection and securing of all refueling equipment away from the rotorcraft prior to rotorcraft movement. Always ensure that proper fire extinguishing equipment is readily available when refueling.
(4)  Prohibit smoking in and around the rotorcraft during all refueling operations.

c.  Rigger Training. External-load rigger training is possibly one of the most difficult and continually changing aspects of the helicopter external-load operation. A poorly rigged cargo net, light standard, or load pallet could result in a serious accident. It is imperative that all riggers be thoroughly trained to meet the needs of each external‑load operation. Since rigging requirements may vary several times in a single day, proper training is of the utmost importance to safe operations.

d.  Pilot at the Flight Controls.

Indicates new/changed information.
(1)  Many helicopter operators have been lured into a “quick turnaround” ground operation to avoid delays and to minimize stop/start cycles of the engine. As part of this quick turnaround, the pilot will leave the cockpit with the engine and rotors turning. Such an operation can be extremely hazardous if a gust of wind disturbs the rotor disc, or if a flight control moves, causing the rotor system to generate lift. Either occurrence may cause the helicopter to roll or pitch, resulting in a rotor blade striking the tail boom or the ground. Safe operating procedures include pilots remaining at the flight controls whenever the engine is running and rotors are turning.
(2)  An appropriately certificated and rated pilot should be at the flight controls during the entire hot fueling/loading process with controls appropriately adjusted to prevent aircraft movement. The pilot should unbuckle all restraints and be prepared to immediately shut down the engine and egress the aircraft, if necessary. The pilot should not conduct any extraneous duties during hot fueling/loading. Other personnel should not be on board the aircraft during hot fueling/loading.
(3)  Hot fueling/loading can be extremely hazardous and is not recommended except when absolutely necessary due to the nature of the operation. Operators who conduct hot fueling/loading should develop standard operating procedures (SOP) for flightcrew and ground crew personnel.

e.  External-Load Signalmen Should Know the Following:

(1)  The lifting capability of the helicopters involved. This knowledge is essential because some operators have models of helicopters that have almost identical physical characteristics, but different lifting capabilities.
Indicates new/changed information.
(2)  The pilots. The safest plan involves standardized procedures for pickup and release of external loads. Without standardization, the hookup person is required to learn the technique used by each pilot. The hookup person should insist on standardization of pilot techniques for any sort of emergency that may occur while personnel are beneath the helicopter.
(3)  The cargo. Many items carried externally are very fragile. The hookup person must be familiar with potentially hazardous materials (hazmat) and aware of the nature of the potential hazard. Explosives, radioactive materials, and toxic chemicals are examples of possible hazmat. (Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) part 172, §§ 172.101 and 172.102 contain the hazmat commodity lists.) Carriage of hazmat in 14 CFR part 133 operations requires FAA authorization. In addition to knowing the nature of the cargo, hookup personnel should receive training to handle and be familiar with the types of protective gear, clothing, and actions that are necessary for safe operation.
Indicates new/changed information.
(4)  The appropriate hand signals. When direct radio communications between ground and flight personnel are required, clarify the specific meaning of all necessary hand signals before the operations commence.
(5)  Emergency procedures. Ground and flight personnel should fully agree to and understand all necessary actions to take by all concerned in the event of emergency. This prior planning is essential in avoiding injuries when emergencies do occur.
(6)  All aspects of the external-load operation being conducted. The pilot conducting the external‑load operation will complete a detailed briefing for all personnel, no matter how remotely involved in the operation, prior to starting the operation.

3.   Safety Around Helicopters. Instruct all persons who board a helicopter while its rotors are turning in the safest means of doing so. If at the controls, the pilot may not be able to conduct a boarding briefing. Therefore, the individual who arranged for carriage of the personnel or the individual assigned as a ramp attendant should accomplish this. The exact procedures may vary slightly from one model helicopter to another, but in general, the following should suffice.

a.  Boarding:

(1)  Stay away from the rear of the helicopter.
(2)  Crouch low before walking under the main rotor.
(3)  Approach from the side or front but never out of the pilot’s line of vision, and only when the pilot or ground personnel in contact with the pilot indicate clearance.
(4)  Hold firmly to hats and loose articles.
(5)  Never reach up for or run after a blown-away hat or other object.
(6)  Protect your eyes by shielding them with your hand or by squinting.
(7)  If suddenly blinded by dust or a blowing object, stop, crouch lower, or sit down, and await help.
(8)  Never grope or feel your way toward or away from a helicopter.
Indicates new/changed information.

b.  Briefing. The pilot or his or her designee must make the pretakeoff briefing. The type of operation will determine what sort of briefing is given, but the briefing should always include:

(1)  The use and operation of seatbelts for takeoff, en route, and landing. Place emphasis on how to release the specific kind of seatbelt installed in the particular rotorcraft. Helicopters do not always use automotive type releases; for instance, some belts use buckles that rotate to open.
(2)  The location and use of flotation gear and other survival equipment that might be onboard, and how and when to “abandon ship” if a ditching is necessary.
(3)  For flights over rough or isolated terrain, tell all occupants where maps and survival gear are located.
(4)  Instruct each person on board in what actions and precautions to take during an emergency, and how and when to exit after landing in the event of an emergency. Ensure that passengers are aware of the location of fire extinguishers, pyrotechnic signaling devices, life preservers, and other survival equipment. Explain the location and methods of opening normal and emergency exits. The FAA encourages use of a diagram or pictorial display on a passenger briefing card.
(5)  Prohibit smoking within 50 feet of a rotorcraft.
Indicates new/changed information. Indicates new/changed information.
(6)  The conditions of the landing determine what passengers should hear in a departing briefing. For example, if on a hill, depart downhill. If this involves walking around the helicopter to avoid the area of lowest rotor clearance, always go around the front, never the rear. The operator may adapt the diagrams included in AC 91-32, Safety In and Around Helicopters, to include in a briefing card.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Appendix 1.  Congested Area Plan Approval

(Submit in duplicate)

Name, Address, Telephone Number of Operator:                                                                                      

Name, Address, Telephone Number of Contractor:                                                                                   

Rotorcraft Identification Number: N                                                                                                          

Rotorcraft Make and Model (HU-369D, etc.):                                                                                          

Rotorcraft Airworthiness Category (Normal, Restricted, Transport):                                                       

Pilot Name and Certificate Number:                                                                                                          


Date                                                  Time begin                                      Time end




Name, title, and telephone number of appropriate official of the local subdivision who has agreed to exclude unauthorized persons from the operational area, if applicable:                                                   


Copy of agreement attached? Yes/No

List of streets or roads that will be blocked during operation, if applicable:                                             


Ingress/egress routes, if applicable:                                                                                                           


(If appropriate) This operation has been coordinated with the following air traffic control

Description and weight of loads to be carried:                                                                                          



Length of attaching means (includes hook and cable):                                                                             

Weight of load:                                                   

Physical size of load:                                          

List of buildings that must be either partially or entirely unoccupied by persons:                                   


Building description/address:                                                                                                                    



Telephone number:                                              

Load penetration (for occupied buildings):                                                                                               

How many floors could the load penetrate if dropped from the highest point of lift above the
building?                       floors

What is the maximum height the load will be lifted above the building?                                        feet

Are charts, maps, and/or diagrams attached? Yes/No

Narrative description of pickup site, route, delivery site, and plan for ceasing operation if unauthorized persons enter operational area:                                                                                                                  



(Use additional sheets as necessary.)

[Company official’s signature]



Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)


Sample diagram of congested area plan.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)


Personnel of the [name of the political subdivision] agree to exclude all unauthorized persons from the operational area described on the attached congested area plan (CAP), which was prepared for rotorcraft external-load operations. I understand that the operations will be conducted on [dates] and remove the operator’s responsibility to exclude all unauthorized persons from the operational area.

Indicates new/changed information.

[Signature of official]

[Name of official]

[Title of official]


Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Appendix 2.  Hand Signals

Hand signals used to direct aircraft on the ground.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Indicates new/changed information.

Hand signals used to direct aircraft on the ground.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Hand signals used to direct aircraft on the ground.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Hand signals used to direct aircraft on the ground.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Hand signals used to direct aircraft on the ground.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Hand signals used to direct aircraft on the ground.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Hand signals used to direct aircraft on the ground.

Figure 3-133.  Sample Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (Continued)

Hand signals used to direct aircraft on the ground.

Indicates new/changed information.

Figure 3-134.  Sample Letter Rejecting Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual or Proposed Revision

[FAA Letterhead]

Indicates new/changed information.


[Operator’s name]

[Operator’s address]

[Operator’s city, State, and ZIP Code]

Dear [name of operator],

We are returning the revisions submitted for your Rotorcraft-Load Combination Flight Manual (RLCFM) for the following reasons:

[List the specific areas that do not meet the appropriate standard.]


[Principal operations inspector’s (POI) signature]

RESERVED. Paragraphs 3-4136 through 3-4150.