II. Counterweight Fly System


The counterweight fly system is a dangerous piece of equipment that has proven to be lethal in many reported cases. Injuries involve people falling and things falling on people. Only those trained in its proper use may use the system.

A. Preparation

Before unlocking a line set, operators must first check that the set is in balance by feeling the tension in the front and back ropes.  If a line set is out of balance the operator will need to make choices about how to safely move it.
Wearing well fitted gloves will help protect the operator's hands while using the system.

B. Counterweight System - General operation

Before moving a line set, the operator communicates with everyone on deck, on the loading rail and on the grid alerting them to the fact that a line is moving.
shout image“Heads on Stage Line Set 11 coming in” or “Line Set 11 going out”

Before moving the line set the operator waits for acknowledgment from the loader and someone on stage representing the working crew. When the loading rail and grid is clear the Loader will give the clear command.
shout image“Clear” or “Loading Rail Clear”

If there is a crew onstage someone representing the crew will check that no one is in danger of injury and indicate to the operator that the deck is clear.
shout image“Clear for 11” or “Deck Clear for 11”

The crew leader on deck is responsible for all members at the stage level including the ones that enter after the process has begun.

C. Loading and Unloading the Counterweight System

Setting up the fly system will involve many people, the minimum being three, two people on the loading rail, and one operator at the fly rail.
The operator or a stage carpenter will communicate the line set to be loaded/ unloaded and the amount of weight to be changed.
shout image“Load 100 lbs on line set 15” or “Unload 50 lbs from line set 15”

Before changing weight the Loader repeats the instructions and then commands that the rail be cleared.
shout image“Adding 100 lbs to line set 15, CLEAR THE RAIL”

After moving away from the operating rail and making sure everyone else is clear the operator or lead stage carpenter communicates with the loaders that the rail is clear and that it is okay to load. The operator/ lead carpenter alerts anyone who happens upon the scene that loading is taking place and clears them from the fly area.
shout image“Rail clear, OK to change weight”

When the weight change is completed and the loader is clear of the system, the loader communicates that they are finished.
shout image“Loading complete”

The Operator then acknowledges the Loader.
shout image“Thank you.” or “Checking balance on line set 12 etc.”

If the load is not balanced more weight must be added or removed. We say the line set is either arbor heavy or batten heavy and thus begin the process again from step one.

D. The Loaders

The loaders are responsible for the safe handling of weight. Stage weights can weigh anywhere from 26 to 52 pounds apiece. A weight falling 50’ can be lethal and can severely damage equipment. NEVER stack stage weights above the height of the toe rail on the loading gallery.

E. The Operator/ Stage Carpenter

The operator is responsible for securing the lineset prior to weight change. The locking rail is not designed to hold severely out of weight line sets, but to keep them from drifting when they are mostly balanced. Do not count on the rope lock when changing a lot of weight. When changing more than 50 lbs it will be necessary to use an alternate locking technique (i.e. using a prussic knot, a snub line, or an Uncle Buddy®).

The Stage Carpenter is responsible for managing weight changing activities and keeping the deck safe from all hazards associated with the fly system.

F. Proper Hardware

Only hardware that is rated for flying will be used to fly equipment and scenery. Most of what you can purchase through big box DIY centers are not properly rated and will not be allowed. Cables and wire rope must be free of kinks or frays, hardware must be free of defects; they cannot have been previously overstressed.

G. Runaways

It is possible to lose control of a severely out of balanced line set. If this occurs, do not try to grab onto the rope! Yell “RUNAWAY” very loudly and clear yourself and others away from the loading area and the area onstage under the batten.