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Misuse Of "emergency"?  
User currently offlineHush-kit From Germany, joined Sep 2000, 124 posts, RR: 0
Posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 5052 times:

folks, read this on aviationherald.com:

Incident: Lufthansa A343 over Atlantic on Feb 4th 2009, cracked windshield
By Simon Hradecky, created Thursday, Feb 5th 2009 20:57Z, last updated Thursday, Feb 5th 2009 21:00Z

The crew of a Lufthansa Airbus A340-300, registration D-AIGO performing flight LH-467 from Miami,FL (USA) to Dusseldorf (Germany), reported a cracked windshield requesting to descend to FL230, when the airplane was at approximately N46 W42 (about 900nm south of Greenland) enroute on NAT track Z. ATC could not clear the airplane down due to two conflicting aircraft at FL340 and FL330. The Lufthansa crew declared emergency, advised they had the conflicting traffic on their TCAS, executed oceanic contingency procedures and descended to FL230, then cancelled the emergency and continued to destination.



Looks a little bit they declared emerceny just for the purpose to descend, I´d call that
inproper and inapprobiate.
Either you have a clear emergency or you don´t, there is nothing in between
(even panpan isn ´t)
Chris

31 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineLincoln From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 3887 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 5026 times:

Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
Looks a little bit they declared emerceny just for the purpose to descend, I´d call that
inproper and inapprobiate.

I'm not a pilot, but I would think that a cracked windshield has the potential to turn into a larger issue (witness BA 5390), and the crew actually flying the aircraft are the only people in a position to factor in all of the available information (size of the crack, probability of it getting larger/leading to a structural faiure of the windshield), etc.

At higher altitutes the pressure differential between the inside (pressurized cabin) and outside (atmosphere) is much greater than at lower altitudes, descending to a lower altitude may be a way to reduce the stress on the cracked windshield an prevent the problem from becomming more significant; once they've descended the situation may or may not still be an "emergency"

If they "asked nicely" and were declined yet they still thought that an emergency situation existed, their only recourse is to declare an emergency.

As I understand it, declaring an emergency creates a lot of bureaucratic overhead (i.e. paperwork, investigations, etc.) so it's not something that most crews look to do lightly.

Lincoln

[Edited 2009-02-06 07:04:56]


CO Is My Airline of Choice || Baggage Claim is an airline's last chance to disappoint a customer || Next flts in profile
User currently onlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6910 posts, RR: 46
Reply 2, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 4939 times:



Quoting Lincoln (Reply 1):
At higher altitutes the pressure differential between the inside (pressurized cabin) and outside (atmosphere) is much greater than at lower altitudes, descending to a lower altitude may be a way to reduce the stress on the cracked windshield an prevent the problem from becomming more significant; once they've descended the situation may or may not still be an "emergency"

Precisely. I am a pilot (although I do not fly at high altitudes) but if I did and encountered a cracked windshield I would want to get down as fast as possible. What the pilot in this case did is entirely appropriate; and the controller is required once a pilot declares an emergency to basically allow him to do what he wants and get everyone else out of the way. Once on the ground the FAA will investigate the situation; if the pilot misused the emergency provisions he will be sanctioned. But in this case I believe that the FAA will agree with the pilot. Actually, I think this was properly handled at both ends. The controller had no reason to disrupt the normal flow of traffic without the emergency declaration (a controller is not required or expected to know the significance of the cracked windshield) and might have received flak from the pilots of the planes he diverted. Once the emergency was declared the whole situation was changed.



The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineRwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2353 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 4641 times:
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While the change in external pressure is likely part of it, the difference in relative pressure between FL350 (I'm going to guess that since I didn't see the actual starting altitude specified), and FL230 is basically *zero* under normal conditions. Only if they maintained a high cabin altitude while descending would there be a smaller pressure differential at the lower altitude.

Let's say the A340 allows a maximum differential of 8 PSI. Then at 35000ft (3.47PSI nominal) +8 PSI gets you 11.5PSI or about 6600ft in the cabin. At 23000ft (5.95PSI), +8 PSI gets you 14PSI or about 1300ft. And in many cases the pressurization schedule is set to keep the lowest possible cabin altitude (with some exceptions of high altitude destinations) to maximize comfort - so the normal schedule would have +8 PSI in both cases.

If they let the cabin climb to 8000ft, they'd need 10.9PSI, or +5 PSI effective pressurization at 23000ft. Which is a 37% reduction from where they likely started. That would certainly help reduce the stress on a windshield, but the total force would still be quite large (still a third of a ton per square foot), and not something I'd really like to see on a cracked piece of glass.

What's probably a bigger concern are the emergency procedures if the windshield does fail. A major decompression at 35000ft is very serious, where healthy passengers (not to mention crew) will loose consciousness in under a minute without oxygen. And passengers with poor heart/lung function can die in minutes even with supplemental oxygen. At 23000ft, it's rather less of an emergency, and a leisurely 1000ft/min descent (and of course they'd go faster than that) will get you to thick air before anyone passes out - even without supplemental oxygen.

But in practical terms, I'd say the crew was correct - at 35000ft the immanent threat of decompression requires a descent RIGHT NOW - IOW, it's an emergency. It’s much less urgent at 23000ft.


User currently offlineKellmark From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 693 posts, RR: 8
Reply 4, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 4489 times:

A couple of thoughts.

1. The crew were very justified in using the emergency provision. A failed windshield can be a serious problem. They needed to get down and ATC couldn't clear them. The North Atlantic is non-radar airspace so there is no radar separation, It is done by position reports and radio communications. But the crew also could see other traffic on their TCAS system, so they could avoid conflicts. But because they had to violate an ATC instruction, they had no other choice but to declare an emergency.

2. The FAA has no jurisdiction over this flight when it is out over the North Atlantic. It will be handled by the German CAA and/or EASA.

3. The crew also would not want to go too low, as when they do, it would mean they would burn much more fuel. But there would be closer airports to go to than Frankfurt, so they should have been ok on that score.


User currently offlineEDICHC From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 4383 times:



Quoting SEPilot (Reply 2):
Once on the ground the FAA will investigate the situation;

Why? This would have occurred in international airspace and the aircraft would have been under the ATC cover (by radio/position report) of either Gander or Shanwick.

Quoting Kellmark (Reply 4):
2. The FAA has no jurisdiction over this flight when it is out over the North Atlantic.

 checkmark 


User currently offlineDashTrash From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 1528 posts, RR: 2
Reply 6, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 4226 times:

This is definitely not a misuse of emergency authority. I'm betting that the QRH says descend below "X" altitude with a cracked windshield as ours does (different aircraft type). If ATC cannot approve the descent, you declare the emergency, make the descent, then cancel it. There's a reason the manufacturer wants you below a certain altitude. You need to do what you have to do to get the airplane there. I wouldn't want to have to use the TCAS to provide my own traffic separation in the descent though.

Another scenario. Flying in the Northeast, started picking up a tremendous load of ice at cruise altitude. Ask for a descent and can't get it due to traffic. Here comes my use of emergency authority to get my aircraft out of a bad spot. I declare the emergency, descend, and the airplane shucks off the ice. I'm not longer flying a wounded airplane, un declare the emergency and continue on my happy way. I'll have some paperwork to do when I get done flying that day, but that's why there are provisions for emergency authority.

ATC can also declare an emergency for you. Had this happen once. During cruise flight at FL410 we started smelling something getting hot. We decided to divert to an airport close by. It took a fairly rapid descent to get to the airport. The nasty smell left as quick as it came, no visible smoke, and not something we really considered an emergency. ATC declared an emergency for us thinking we had smoke in the cockpit. We got that straightened out during the descent, but nonetheless there were crash trucks waiting on us when we got on the ground. I'm sure that didn't happen with the A340, but it does happen. An aircraft dispatcher can also declare an emergency for an aircraft.


User currently offlineZeke From Hong Kong, joined Dec 2006, 9105 posts, RR: 75
Reply 7, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 4163 times:



Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
Looks a little bit they declared emergency just for the purpose to descend, I´d call that inproper and inappropriate.

I think that is becuase you do not know the "oceanic contingency procedures", to me the LH looks like they followed them to the letter. They would have been in two way contact with the other aircraft via VHF and ATC, and they would turned off track, descended, and then rejoined track at FL230 below all the NAT traffic.

from http://www.nat-pco.org/nat/MNPSA/MNPSA_2008.pdf

11.2.1 If an aircraft is unable to continue its flight in accordance with its ATC clearance, a revised clearance should be obtained whenever possible, prior to initiating any action, using the radio telephony distress (MAYDAY) signal or urgency (PAN PAN) signal as appropriate.

11.2.2 If prior clearance cannot be obtained, an ATC clearance should be obtained at the earliest possible time and, in the meantime, the aircraft should broadcast its position (including the ATS Route designator or the Track Code as appropriate) and its intentions, at frequent intervals on 121.5 MHz (with 123.45 MHz as a back-up frequency). It must be recognised that due to the use of SELCAL with HF communications in North Atlantic operations, pilots' situation awareness, of other potentially conflicting traffic, may be non-existent or incomplete. If the aircraft is in an area where ATC communications are being conducted on VHF, pending receipt of any reclearance, the position and intentions should be broadcast on the current control frequency, rather than 123.45 MHz.

11.3.4 An aircraft that is unable to maintain its assigned flight level should, whenever possible, initially minimise its rate of descent when leaving its original track centreline and then expedite descent to a feasible flight level which differs from those normally used by 500 ft if below FL410 (or by 1000 ft if above FL410).

11.3.5 Before commencing any diversion across the flow of adjacent traffic, aircraft should, whilst maintaining the 15 NM offset track, expedite climb above or descent below the vast majority of NAT traffic (i.e. to a level above FL410 or below FL285), and then maintain a flight level which differs from those normally used: by 1000 ft if above FL410, or by 500 ft if below FL410. However, if the pilot is unable or unwilling to carry out a major climb or descent, then any diversion should be carried out

Quoting DashTrash (Reply 6):
This is definitely not a misuse of emergency authority. I'm betting that the QRH says descend below "X" altitude with a cracked windshield as ours does (different aircraft type). If ATC cannot approve the descent, you declare the emergency, make the descent, then cancel it. There's a reason the manufacturer wants you below a certain altitude

Correct, the 343 QRH says max FL230 and wind the cabin altitude up to 8000 ft.



We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking – Santosh Kalwar
User currently onlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6910 posts, RR: 46
Reply 8, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 3991 times:



Quoting EDICHC (Reply 5):

Why? This would have occurred in international airspace and the aircraft would have been under the ATC cover (by radio/position report) of either Gander or Shanwick.

I missed the part in the original post that said it was over the Atlantic; so you are right. I assume, however, that the controlling authority still will want an explanation.



The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineSPREE34 From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 2248 posts, RR: 9
Reply 9, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 3924 times:



Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
Looks a little bit they declared emerceny just for the purpose to descend, I´d call that
inproper and inapprobiate.
Either you have a clear emergency or you don´t, there is nothing in between
(even panpan isn ´t)
Chris

Zeke covered it nicely. Not only was it proper and appropriate, to have done otherwise would have violated numerous written provisions, or worse case, been fatal.

Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
Either you have a clear emergency or you don´t, there is nothing in between
(even panpan isn ´t)
Chris

This is not the case at all. There can be plenty of "". There can also be unknown, which results in declaring because things are going bad in a hurry and you don't know why yet.



I don't understand everything I don't know about this.
User currently offlinePilotaydin From Turkey, joined Sep 2004, 2539 posts, RR: 51
Reply 10, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 3896 times:



Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
Looks a little bit they declared emerceny just for the purpose to descend, I´d call that
inproper and inapprobiate.

perfectly executed....i can tell you this as a 340 F/O  Smile

You have to be careful over the atlantic, there is the SAND rule, and the SLOP, and also the contingency 15 nm procedure....

there are a crap load of a/c over the atlantic..you'd be surprized  Smile



The only time there is too much fuel onboard, is when you're on fire!
User currently onlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6910 posts, RR: 46
Reply 11, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 3841 times:



Quoting SPREE34 (Reply 9):
This is not the case at all. There can be plenty of "". There can also be unknown, which results in declaring because things are going bad in a hurry and you don't know why yet.

Precisely. All of the authorities would much prefer that a pilot declare an emergency when unsure than not declare one when one actually exists. If in this case the pilot had NOT declared an emergency and the windshield HAD blown out the results could have been catastrophic. A classic case is the 707 that crashed on Long Island after running out of fuel; the crew had never properly communicated to the controllers the true state of their fuel. This is why there is the emergency declaration; it is telling the controllers "I have a problem and I need everyone to get out of my way." It can be used any time the pilot BELIEVES he has a problem; the only time the pilot will be sanctioned is if he deliberately misuses it merely for the sake of convenience. In fact, most pilots are reluctant to declare an emergency; sometimes (as above) too reluctant.



The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25346 posts, RR: 22
Reply 12, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 3577 times:



Quoting Pilotaydin (Reply 10):
here are a crap load of a/c over the atlantic..you'd be surprised

Over 1,000 aircraft a day cross the North Atlantic.


User currently offlineSASD209 From British Indian Ocean Territory, joined Oct 2007, 642 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 3561 times:

SEPilot:

Avianca Flight 52. I just re-read the accident report and you're spot-on.


User currently offlineAviateur From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 1352 posts, RR: 11
Reply 14, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 3555 times:

Nothing inappropriate about it. And as others have pointed out, protocols over the ocean make certain situations more critical than they would be in domestic airspace.

PS



Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
User currently offlineFXramper From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 7298 posts, RR: 85
Reply 15, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 3502 times:
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http://www.keyetv.com/content/news/t...-pilot/EY3tiPW8oECQNXh2tujQ6Q.cspx

Emergency?


User currently offlineUSAFDO From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 443 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 3478 times:

I've noticed on Aviation Herald that allot of the quotes about what aircrew transmitted to ATC use the term "Pan".

From my training aircrew are supposed to transmit "May Day" per FAA 7110.65 which is the official FAA rule book for air traffic controllers (with the official phraseology).

I was an air traffic controller for 10 years, and never...ever heard that term "Pan" used by a pilot.

Further more, when reading aviation stories, please note that non-aviation story writers attempt to write aviation related stories and mis-use official terminology all the time.

If someone really wants to know what was said, get the NTSB official report w/transcripts.


User currently offline413X3 From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 1983 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 3423 times:



Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
Looks a little bit they declared emerceny just for the purpose to descend, I´d call that
inproper and inapprobiate.
Either you have a clear emergency or you don´t, there is nothing in between
(even panpan isn ´t)

why can't people just ask questions, and wait for expert answers? you were so sure it was improper and inappropriate?


User currently offlineKellmark From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 693 posts, RR: 8
Reply 18, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 3378 times:



Quoting USAFDO (Reply 16):
official FAA rule book for air traffic controllers (with the official phraseology).

I was an air traffic controller for 10 years, and never...ever heard that term "Pan" used by a pilot.

That is because you worked in the US, where "Pan Pan" is not used. But it is used in many other countries.

Just like in the US when it is used, a pilot is told " Position and Hold". But in ICAO it is "Line Up and Wait".

There are a lot of variations in aviation terminology from country to country.


User currently offlineOPNLguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 3316 times:



Quoting SEPilot (Reply 11):
In fact, most pilots are reluctant to declare an emergency; sometimes (as above) too reluctant.

I'll readily agree with you on the first part of that statement, but as far as the latter part (and especially with specific respect to AV52), I think a close read of the NTSB report will show that the PIC wasn't reluctant at all and thought the the F/O had effectively communicated their status to ATC. Obviously, he hadn't.

It should not go unmentioned that the NTSB found that language and ATC issues were not first on the list of contributing factors to this accident. Number one on that list was the lack of use of an operational control system. Unlike all the U.S.-based Part 121 airlines that night, Avianca operated under Part 129 regs (which kick things back to the regs of the home country) and their regs were not the same as the 121 regs as far as their dispatcher's responsibilities to keep the flight updated with info on WX, JFK delays, the monitoring of fuel supply, the need to divert, and the possible need for the dispatcher to initiate the declaration of the emergency. After the airborne holds over ORF, BOTON, and CAMRN consumed so much of the fuel, the flight was well past the point where it should have been diverted. Anyone who has ever dispatched flights up the east coast into the NYC area knows that sometimes you need to drop them into IAD, BWI, ORF, PHL, RIC, PIT, SYR or other suitable alternates on occasion, and in the case of AV52, that didn't happen when it clearly should have.

Quoting USAFDO (Reply 16):
Further more, when reading aviation stories, please note that non-aviation story writers attempt to write aviation related stories and mis-use official terminology all the time.

If I had a dollar for every time I've read/heard about "black boxes" (that are really orange), 737s/A320s/MD80s dumping fuel (when they're not even equipped to do so), aircraft of all types being on "tarmac" (instead of concrete or asphalt), and aircraft using "reverse thrusters" (instead of thrust reversers), I'd be one rich dude!  Wink


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25346 posts, RR: 22
Reply 20, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 3204 times:



Quoting Kellmark (Reply 18):
Just like in the US when it is used, a pilot is told " Position and Hold". But in ICAO it is "Line Up and Wait".

There are a lot of variations in aviation terminology from country to country.

Canada also changed to "Line up and wait" last April. Related thread from the Tech/Ops forum:
http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/tech_ops/read.main/222986/

And FAA bulletin last March re the Canadian terminology change:
http://www.faa.gov/other_visit/aviat...all_infos/media/2008/info08013.pdf


User currently offlineGBan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 3193 times:

Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
The Lufthansa crew declared emergency, advised they had the conflicting traffic on their TCAS, executed oceanic contingency procedures and descended to FL230, then cancelled the emergency and continued to destination.

They did not continue to destination, but landed in Shannon:

Lufthansa dispatched an Airbus A321-100 registration D-AIRS as flight LH8850 from Munich to Shannon, which brought the passengers to Dusseldorf as flight LH8851 with a delay of about 5 hours.

The OPs source has been updated with the additional information:

http://avherald.com/h?article=41490674&opt=0

(edited to include link)

[Edited 2009-02-07 23:19:58]

User currently offlineEDICHC From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 22, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 3117 times:



Quoting SEPilot (Reply 8):
I assume, however, that the controlling authority still will want an explanation.

And I'm quite sure the LH crew would have submitted such an adequate explanation upon arrival at their diversion point SNN.


User currently offlineZeke From Hong Kong, joined Dec 2006, 9105 posts, RR: 75
Reply 23, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 3091 times:



Quoting USAFDO (Reply 16):

From my training aircrew are supposed to transmit "May Day" per FAA 7110.65 which is the official FAA rule book for air traffic controllers (with the official phraseology).

Pan-Pan is FAA phraseology as well.

From FAA Order JO 7110.65S http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraff...blications/at_orders/media/ATC.pdf

"PAN PAN- The international radio telephony urgency signal. When repeated three times, indicates uncertainty or alert followed by the nature of the urgency."

10-1-1. EMERGENCY DETERMINATIONS

a. An emergency can be either a Distress or an Urgency condition as defined in the Pilot/Controller Glossary.

b. A pilot who encounters a Distress condition should declare an emergency by beginning the initial communication with the word Mayday, preferably repeated three times. For an Urgency condition, the word Pan Pan should be used in the same manner.

c. If the words Mayday or Pan Pan are not used and you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency.



We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking – Santosh Kalwar
User currently offlinePITrules From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 3203 posts, RR: 5
Reply 24, posted (5 years 7 months 2 weeks 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 3081 times:

Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
Looks a little bit they declared emerceny just for the purpose to descend, I´d call that
inproper and inapprobiate.



Quoting Hush-kit (Thread starter):
ATC could not clear the airplane down due to two conflicting aircraft at FL340 and FL330.

Looks like the controllers need to get to class; both on remedial regulatory procedures, and on a 'street smarts' standard.

Quoting EDICHC (Reply 5):
Why? This would have occurred in international airspace and the aircraft would have been under the ATC cover (by radio/position report) of either Gander or Shanwick.

The aircraft and flight crew are still required to meet FAA standards worldwide; because it is under the FAA which they are both certified

[Edited 2009-02-08 01:25:53]


FLYi
25 Viscount724 : Why would LH flight crew have to be certified by the FAA? Under ICAO rules I thought all countries accepted certification by the country issuing the
26 PITrules : That's what I meant; I guess I could have worded it differently. Over the N. Atlantic, certification standards should be accepted, regardless of US o
27 Zeke : No, the separation requirements in that sort of airspace is typically 1 degree, 60+ nm or 10+ minutes. This is non-radar, an no VHF ATC facility. No.
28 PITrules : What does that have to do with the controler's denial of the flight crew's request for an immediate descent; and their failure to re-clear the confli
29 Zeke : ATC does not know where the emergency aircraft and other aircraft are exactly, the airspace is procedure control. The aircraft would be outside VHF a
30 PITrules : I am fully aware of this, thank you. Based on the topic, and specifically, I am under the impression the crew requested a descent via Gander radio, d
31 SPREE34 : ATC cannot issue a clearance that will result in less than standard separation. That is the rule ATC must play by. Where would you have ATC re-clear
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