National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Leadline – Helicopter, External Loads, 6,000 lbs.

NFES Number: 
Storage and Shelf Life Checks: 

Initial Inspection/Disposal Criteria

  1. Inspect eye and swage for red paint and slippage:
    1. Inspect swage and wire rope eyes for slippage. If slippage has occurred, see Figures 1 and 2, dispose of the leadline.
    2. Visually inspect each swage and eye for red paint, if the paint shows that slippage has not occurred, but the paint is worn in such a way that this determination was difficult, the swage shall be repainted. If paint is not present, send to certified rigging specialist for evaluation.
Figure 1. Painted swage painted-swage-slippage-000380.jpg
Figure 1. Painted Swage Figure 2. Paint showing slippage


  1. Inspect for wire rope damage.  If any damage is found then dispose of the wire rope.
    1. Visually inspect length of wire rope for structural damage
  • Kinks in wire rope, see Figure 3.
  • Ballooning of wire rope, see Figure 4.
  • Cut or damaged plastic coating of cable (NFES #000528 only), see Figure 5.
  • Severe Corrosion
  • Abrasion, wear over 1/3 the outer wire diameter, see Figure 6.
  • Reduction in diameter of wire rope.


image of a kinked cable image of a cable ballooning
Figure 3. Kink Figure 4. Ballooning
image of a damaged plastic coated wire rope image showing abrasion on a cable
Figure 5. Damaged plastic coated wire rope. Figure 6. Abrasion


  1. 6000 pound leadline (NFES #000380)--inspect length of wire rope for damage.
  • Wear heavy protective gloves. Never use an ungloved hand to check the length of the cable.
  • Run a dry rag over the entire length of the wire rope.
  • Flex wire rope to expose breaks. Snags indicate broken wires in the wire rope. If individual broken wires are found, they may be trimmed back. If 4 or more broken wires are found grouped together, then dispose of wire rope.
  1. 3000 pound leadline (NFES #000528)--inspect plastic coated wire rope for damage. Abrasion to plastic coating down to the wire rope may cause corrosion.
  • Run gloved hand over length of plastic coated wire rope to check for any abnormalities such as lumps, depressions, and exposed wire. If plastic coated wire rope has severe damage or corrosion, dispose of properly.  See Figure 5.


  1. Measure wire rope diameter and length-
    1. Check wire rope length.
  • Length is measured from center of each thimble. If wire rope length exceeds tolerance, dispose of properly. Note: A hook replacement process was performed where old style spring gate hooks were replaced with self-closing gate hooks, see References. In this retrofit process the leadline length was shortened. The minimum length of the leadline was set at 10 ft. 2 inches. Further as part of the retrofit, the ID tag was to include “Retrofit Leadline.” Therefore short 3,000 lb. rated leadlines are only acceptable if they include the Retrofit Leadline designation on their ID tags, others are to be removed from service.


Table 1. Wire Rope Length
Length Tolerance per FSS 5100-503/505
12 feet +/-3 inches
25 feet +/-3 inches
50 feet +/-3 inches


Table 2. Wire Rope Diameter

Size Dimension
3000 lbs. 5/16 inch to 5/8 inch
6000 lbs. 1/2 inch to 9/16 inch


  1. Check for identification.
    1. Visually inspect leadline for permanently attached tag. Proof load tag shall be permanently attached with a swaged stainless steel wire rope.
    2. Temporary attachments are not allowed, such as wire ties.
    3. Tag shall contain at a minimum the following information: Manufacture Name, Test Company or Trademark; Working Load Limit; and Date of Proof Test (i.e., 06/06 for June, 2006). Note: Older leadlines will have Safe Working Load vice Working Load Limit, both terms are currently acceptable.
    4. If permanently attached proof load tag is not present, missing required information, not made of metal or secured with a non-permanent attachment device (e.g. Ty-Rap zip ties), remove the leadline from service.
  2. Inspect thimble for cracks, wear, and deformation.
    1. Physically examine each thimble for movement by forceful motion with hand.
    2. Thimble may move but should not be loose within the eyelet.
    3. Thimble shall have a smooth arc (see Figure 7.) If thimbles have any cracks, wear, deformation or are loose (see Figure 8.), dispose of leadline.
image of a thimble pear link image of a deformed thimble hook
Figure 7. Thimble, Pear Link and Proof Load Tag Figure 8. Deformed Thimble and Hook
  1. Inspect hook for damage, wear, and deformation.
    1. Check hook for damage such as cracks, nicks, wear, gouges, and deformation, see Figures 9 and 10.
    2. Ensure that hook is not bent or distorted and complies with hook dimensions, see Table 3 and Figure 9.
    3. Ensure hook has a safety latch or has been retrofit with self-locking safety gate that operates correctly.
  • Ensure safety gate opens and closes completely.
  • Examine gate for damage or distortion.
  • Examine gate lock for rounded edge, see Figure 10.
  • Ensure lock latch pin is secure and flush with latch, see Figure 10.
  1. Check hook dimensions, see Table 3 and Figure 9.
  2. If hook is damaged, missing hardware, is distorted, or does not meet dimension requirements, remove leadline from service.
Table 3. Hook Dimensions
Leadline Capacity Style H (max) J (min)
3000 lbs. Self-locking hook 1.0 inch 1.33 inches
6000 lbs. Self-locking hook 1.33 inches 1.7 inches
image of a self locking hook
Figure 9. Dimensions for Hooks
image of a gate lock latch
Figure 10. Examine Gate Lock Latch for rounding.


  1. Inspect Ring or Link
    1. Check for damage such as cracks, nicks, wear, and gouges.
    2. Check dimensions for deformations, see Table 4 and Figure 11.
    3. If ring or link is damaged, remove from service.


Table 4. Leadline Ring and Pear Link Dimensions
Leadline A B C
3000 lb Leadline 5/8 inch max 1.5 - 3 inch 3 - 4 inch
6000 lb Leadline 0.63 inch max 1.5 - 3 inch 3 - 4.5 inch


image showing the dimensions of a pear link and an oval link
Figure 11. Dimension for Pear Link and Oblong Link.


  1. Return to stock if leadline is in a sealed carton, or is an open container, but is clean, in unused condition, and passes inspection.
  2. Refurbish if leadline only requires cleaning or has deficiencies identified during inspection that are economically feasible to complete.
  3. Dispose of leadline if it fails inspection and repairs are not practical or economically feasible.



Refurbishing Procedures

A. Cleaning

  • The cable and hook assembly may be cleaned with hot water only, no soap.

B. Repair

  1. Apply slippage paint to the swage and thimble as shown in Figure 12.
  • The paint shall be a red spray epoxy or acrylic.
  • Mask or cover the area to achieve a painted area similar to Figure 12.
  •  Spray around the swage and do not attempt to spray paint into the ends of swage.
  1. If the Proof Load Tag is missing, the leadline must be sent to a rigging company to be tested per Testing for Performance, as long as the item passed all other inspections.
  2. Upon successful test, the rigging company shall apply a Proof Load Tag that meets/includes the following:
  • Working Load Limit in lbs. • date of proof test (month and year)
  • Name or trademark of the rigging company
  • Text size shall be 0.12 inches in height
  • Tag shall either be stainless steel or brass
  • Tag shall be secured to the leadline with a metal device, e.g., ‘hog ring’, wire cable


image of a swage junction showing the paint not disrupted
Figure 12. Swage Paint.


C. Testing for Performance

  1. Proof tests must be performed by a certified rigging company when the tag is missing and the leadline is otherwise acceptable and it’s economically feasible to retest the leadline.
  2. The proof test shall apply a load to the item at twice the rated safe working load.
  3. Any certified rigging company can test proof test the leadline assembly.

D. Repackaging

NFES #000528 package 5 each in NFES #008018 carton (12” x 12” x 6”).
NFES #000380 suggested package of 1 each in NFES #008018 carton (12” x 12” x 6”).


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