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Sully's Skills Being Disputed?  
User currently offlineAerdingus From Ireland, joined Dec 2006, 2755 posts, RR: 15
Posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 11714 times:

http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/2009...dson-or-did-the-plane-land-itself/

Just saw this. I don't know much about how the A320 works, all I know is the significance of it's FBW & flight envelope. Is this article not slightly unfair & assuming?

Sorry if it's been posted already


Cabin crew blog http://dolefuldolegirl.blogspot.ie/
40 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineTobias2702 From Germany, joined Sep 2008, 701 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 11674 times:

When someone writes about the A320

"when the plane was first delivered in 1988, It was without a doubt the most innovative civil airplane since the Wright Flyer".

(a huge exageration), then I'm not wondering at all if the whole other stuff also is blown up. I think it utter rubbish.



PA, AF, UK, BA, AB, DL, LH, FR, BD, A3, EZY, DY //// A319/320/346, B733/735/73G/738/744/763, AT4, 146, CR2, DH4
User currently offlineDingDong From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 661 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 11605 times:



Quoting Aerdingus (Thread starter):
Is this article not slightly unfair & assuming?

Well, I should point out that the final paragraph of the referenced WSJ article states:

Quote:
Langewiesche, a pilot himself, is not trying to take anything away from Sullenberger’s ability as a pilot, alternately writing throughout the piece that the aviator “was justly celebrated for his skill and courage,” “showing his excellence as a pilot,” and “a quintessential pilot.”

What I got from that was a recognition of the place of human decision-making and experience in the entire situation still had a major role in a successful outcome. Mr. Langewiesche was more going along the lines of exploring how much of it could be attributable to man vs. to the machine.

That's a reasonably fair question to be asked by someone with an interest in probing further.

Ultimately, even with the Airbus' most impressive capabilities, you still need a very experienced human (applicable to both the captain AND the FO!) being to keep his or her composure in face of such an unusually bad event with dim prospects of a happy outcome... and make a well-calculated decision as to where to put it down. The A320 is not programmed to make such decisions of this particular type at this time. Big grin

Not sure what you know about Mr. Langewiesche, but it's an interesting thing. His father wrote one of the all-time most famous books in all of aviation: Stick and Rudder. He's not a bad pilot, himself, having worked as a professional pilot. It'd probably be a fair guess to say he likely understands aviation from the various viewpoints -- pax, private pilot, professional pilot, undoubtedly amongst others.

I don't closely follow his written work, but the few I've seen in passing are pretty good, thoughtful, well-reasoned, and well-researched. Sounds like he's working for Vanity Fair now, but I used to more regularly see his occasional articles in a magazine I found to be thought-provoking and interesting: Atlantic Monthly.

So, based on what I know about him and what I've actually read in the past, I'm willing to believe he wasn't trying to impugn Capt. Sullenberger, but more to explore an interesting question that has been mostly glossed over in the publicity of the aftermath. It's a fair question and deserves a fair treatment.

Ultimately, the machine may be more capable than the average person (or non-Airbus pilot) may realise or appreciate, but it still requires an even-headed professional pilot at the helm to make all sorts of critical decisions at various junctures.



DingDong, honey, please answer the doorbell!
User currently offlineRFields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7345 posts, RR: 32
Reply 3, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 11496 times:

Putting the plane down in the Hudson was not the amazing thing of Sully and his FO's actions.

The recognition of the problem quickly, determining what could be done and what could not be done quickly and picking the only flat, unobstructed area available - despite the inherent risk - for the landing.

That decision making under incredible pressure is what pilots get the big bucks for. The flying is also critically important - but the decision making had to be perfect, otherwise he would never have had a chance to make the ditching.


User currently offlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6676 posts, RR: 46
Reply 4, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 11362 times:

Certainly the A320 FBW system helps in the mechanical task of flying the plane and keeping from stalling, but IMHO that is a relatively minor part of Sully's feat. If he could not have managed that with all of the hours he has then it is highly doubtful that the outcome would have been good in any case. As RFields5421 correctly points out, it was the decision making that was crucial, and the real feat of airmanship was the touchdown, something in which the FBW did not play a decisive part; that was Sully's skill. If it had been a case of stretching the glide to its absolute maximum (such as the BA 777) FBW might have been more of a factor, but note that the BA pilots did as well as could possibly be done (according to the subsequent trials run in simulators) without the benefit of Airbus's FBW system. Sully had the whole length of the Hudson to land on; his main problem was avoiding the George Washington bridge, which he did just fine. A second consideration was landing as close to help as possible, and he did that superbly. To say that his task was made easier because he didn't have to worry about stalling the plane is true but irrelevant.


The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineKhobar From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 2379 posts, RR: 4
Reply 5, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 11146 times:



Quoting SEPilot (Reply 4):
but note that the BA pilots did as well as could possibly be done (according to the subsequent trials run in simulators) without the benefit of Airbus's FBW system.

The 777 is FBW too, but the implementation philosophy is different.

Has anyone run the BA "landing" in a comparable Airbus?

Quoting SEPilot (Reply 4):
it was the decision making that was crucial

Absolutely, and had the touchdown circumstances been different, no one would be hailing Sully as a hero.


User currently offlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6676 posts, RR: 46
Reply 6, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 11057 times:

Quoting Khobar (Reply 5):

The 777 is FBW too, but the implementation philosophy is different.

As I understand it, the 777 does not have the same envelope protection that the FBW Airbusses have; and from what I have read the 777 does not fly much differently than other non-FBW Boeings. All airliners have stick pushers or shakers that give ample warning of an impending stall; on a Boeing you can go there, but you will know it. The "normal law" on the Airbus just does not let you get there at all. My point was that the BA pilots did just fine anyway.

[Edited 2009-05-12 07:29:59]


The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineNicoEDDF From Germany, joined Jan 2008, 1097 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 10977 times:

The question is, as the article hasn't disputed Capt. Sullenbergers abilities at all, why there shouldn't be any room to give the same credit to the quality of Airbus product?

Actually there can't be any doubt that the way the airplane was constructed and built, the computers programmed and the systems designed was highly beneficial to the outcome of events.

History has proven that there are less forgiving, less reliable, less "easy to fly" airplanes, so Airbus did a damn good job in handing Capt. Sullenberger (and all of his colleagues worldwide for that matter) an impressive tool to handle the situation.

Credit for that, parallel, not in contrast, to Sullenbergers abilities is absolutely reasonable.
The construction engineers must be proud of what they've created, to sustain this accident with no loss of life in the chain of events.


Disclaimer: As we are here on a.net, I wan't to point out that any Boeing built airplane is in my view of no less quality than their Airbus counterparts.


User currently offlineKhobar From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 2379 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 10655 times:



Quoting SEPilot (Reply 6):
As I understand it, the 777 does not have the same envelope protection that the FBW Airbusses have; and from what I have read the 777 does not fly much differently than other non-FBW Boeings.

Correct - it does not have the same envelope protection. The Boeing approach offers what the Airbus approach offers, but it adds override capability. Within the envelope the controls respond "normally". To get outside the envelope you have to really want to be there, but you don't have to change modes or do anything other than apply physical force (and, apparently, it's very obvious when you are doing this).

Since Airbus FBW aircraft have crashed due to flying outside the envelope, obviously one can take an Airbus outside the envelope. However, to get there depends on The Mode (control law).

In Sully's case, his job was easier since he didn't have to worry about the plane as much as he might otherwise had to, and that's a good thing. However, there are cases where the crew also weren't worried as much about the plane as they should have been, with much less happy results (pilot overconfidence in the automation systems being cited).

Has there been any comment about whether the results might have been significantly different had Sully been flying a 737 or E190? It seems the biggest factor was the slow speed and controlled impact.


User currently offlineMaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1034 posts, RR: 7
Reply 9, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 10370 times:

As a pilot of 35 years who also happens to fly the Airbus for the same airline as Sully, I can assure you the outcome would have been exactly the same if he had been in a 737.

I guess Langewiesche never heard of the 707 if he thinks the Airbus is the most innovative
civil aircraft since the Wright Flyer.

[Edited 2009-05-12 10:45:49]

User currently offlinePlanespotting From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 3512 posts, RR: 5
Reply 10, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 10285 times:

I read the article nearly as soon as my copy of VF appeared in my mailbox, and thought it was pretty well written and very accurate. I did think that he went a little overboard with his glowing praise of the A320, but nevertheless that particular airplane should receive some due for playing more than a bit part in the successful landing.

Certainly, I don't think the author meant any harm or tried to dissuade anyone of Sully's superior flying skill. I believe it would have been the same outcome in any aircraft in that category (A320, 737, EMB-190, etc...). But the author's assertion that the Airbus would fly itself out of a stall is correct - it can override the pilot's inputs to keep the aircraft flying, but it certainly can't make a decision as to where to land in the middle of NYC, nor can it line up parallel to shore, drop flaps, or provide the same kind of fine eye hand coordination touches that Sully was able to coax out of the plane to put it down just so.

I don't think the author needed to say all of that, as it was pretty well implied in the article that the Airbus is still a machine ...



Do you like movies about gladiators?
User currently offlineJonathan L From United States of America, joined May 2001, 171 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 10193 times:



Quote:
Sullenberger’s A320 went all the way to the water under fly-by-wire control.

How does one fly an A320 without "fly-by-wire?" I can understand how the envelope protection may have aided control of the aircraft, but as others have said, Sully's thinking and inputs into the system made it the success it was.


User currently offlineAerdingus From Ireland, joined Dec 2006, 2755 posts, RR: 15
Reply 12, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 10168 times:

Some good points in here. I did originally think that the author was maybe being a bit ignorant, and certainly an eyebrow did go up when I read the Wright flyer comment. Having said that, I still would think the A320 was "kind of a big deal" when it came out, wasn't it the first subsonic FBW or something? Anyway, thinking back about the article, I suppose the author was just being objective, about the crew's handling and the capabilities of the aircraft.

Cheers for the very interesting & informative replies

 Smile



Cabin crew blog http://dolefuldolegirl.blogspot.ie/
User currently offlinePolymerPlane From United States of America, joined May 2006, 991 posts, RR: 3
Reply 13, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 9945 times:

Did sully actually bring the aircraft to the edge of the flight envelope? I mean if he doesn't then it doesn't matter if the aircraft really have FBW or not, does it?

I mean, if an airbus FBW plane crashes, it's the pilot's fault, but if it survives a crash it's not really the pilot's skill, it's the FBW.

Cheers,
PP



One day there will be 100% polymer plane
User currently offlineSEPilot From United States of America, joined Dec 2006, 6676 posts, RR: 46
Reply 14, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 9915 times:



Quoting PolymerPlane (Reply 13):
Did sully actually bring the aircraft to the edge of the flight envelope? I mean if he doesn't then it doesn't matter if the aircraft really have FBW or not, does it?

I mean, if an airbus FBW plane crashes, it's the pilot's fault, but if it survives a crash it's not really the pilot's skill, it's the FBW.

Excellent point. I suspect that Sully never got anywhere near the edge of the envelope; he would have been looking for best glide speed which is quite a bit above stall speed. Whether he was flying an Airbus or a Cessna would have made no difference; he did a superb job and would have done just as well in anything else.



The problem with making things foolproof is that fools are so doggone ingenious...Dan Keebler
User currently offlineD L X From United States of America, joined May 1999, 10992 posts, RR: 52
Reply 15, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 9750 times:



Quoting PolymerPlane (Reply 13):
Did sully actually bring the aircraft to the edge of the flight envelope? I

The investigation is still pending, but I'm guessing no. At the edge of the flight envelope, the plane is coming down where it wants to come down, right? At the edge of the flight envelope, you can tell exactly how much further you will get to fly given altitude, wind, etc. and probably won't have much control after that. Wouldn't you also lose the ability to tell the plane what attitude it would glide at? (And presumably, what attitude he'd hit the water at as well!) My guess is that Sully stayed well away from the edge of the envelope as long as they were looking for a place to go, then stayed above the edge again to make sure he could get to that 11 degrees nose up he was aiming for.

So the idea that he just pulled all the way back on the side stick and let the plane not crash him is probably false.



Send me a PM at http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/sendmessage.main?from_username=NULL
User currently offlineManfredj From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 1132 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 9386 times:



Quoting Maxpower1954 (Reply 9):
As a pilot of 35 years who also happens to fly the Airbus for the same airline as Sully, I can assure you the outcome would have been exactly the same if he had been in a 737.

Right. Well educated answer.

Quoting Maxpower1954 (Reply 9):
I guess Langewiesche never heard of the 707 if he thinks the Airbus is the most innovative
civil aircraft since the Wright Flyer.

Yes, that was a pretty lofty comment on his part, one which is hard to substantiate. Most aircraft have something special to offer when they are first conceived. There are others, however, that push the innovative envelope even further. The L1011 comes to mind as well.



757: The last of the best
User currently offlinePihero From France, joined Jan 2005, 4143 posts, RR: 76
Reply 17, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 8752 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

May I suggest to all interested posters to read the actual Langewiesche article instead of basing silly comments on the VF write-up ?
Then, you'd discover that, as usual, the resume doesn't do any credit to the actual work.
And then, maybe, you'd be able to discuss Mr Langewiesche's qualifications to write about the "Hudson Incident". (I have a feeling that they are a lot more impressive than those I see generally on this forum).



Contrail designer
User currently offlineDragon6172 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 1199 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 8570 times:



Quoting PolymerPlane (Reply 13):
Did sully actually bring the aircraft to the edge of the flight envelope? I mean if he doesn't then it doesn't matter if the aircraft really have FBW or not, does it?

I mean, if an airbus FBW plane crashes, it's the pilot's fault, but if it survives a crash it's not really the pilot's skill, it's the FBW.



Quoting D L X (Reply 15):
The investigation is still pending, but I'm guessing no. At the edge of the flight envelope, the plane is coming down where it wants to come down, right? At the edge of the flight envelope, you can tell exactly how much further you will get to fly given altitude, wind, etc. and probably won't have much control after that. Wouldn't you also lose the ability to tell the plane what attitude it would glide at? (And presumably, what attitude he'd hit the water at as well!) My guess is that Sully stayed well away from the edge of the envelope as long as they were looking for a place to go, then stayed above the edge again to make sure he could get to that 11 degrees nose up he was aiming for.

Well put. This is what I was thinking, but could not put it to words. He had to maintain some control of the aircraft so that he could pull up and slow the decent rate before impact with the river.
FBW is great for keeping you from stalling, but it would have been no good to Sully if he could not have flared the aircraft. The FBW would have just impacted them with the water a fairly high rate of descent I would think.



Phrogs Phorever
User currently offlineFuturePilot16 From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 2035 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 8097 times:



Quoting Tobias2702 (Reply 1):
"when the plane was first delivered in 1988, It was without a doubt the most innovative civil airplane since the Wright Flyer".

(a huge exageration), then I'm not wondering at all if the whole other stuff also is blown up. I think it utter rubbish.

See this is why I caution what I read. Never mind the invention nof the Jet engine or even the 727 or 737, the a320 with fly by wire is bigger than all the innovations of the 80 years that came before it. Or maybe they just love to exxagerate



"The brave don't live forever, but the cautious don't live at all."
User currently offlineKhobar From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 2379 posts, RR: 4
Reply 20, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 7639 times:



Quoting NicoEDDF (Reply 7):
Actually there can't be any doubt that the way the airplane was constructed and built, the computers programmed and the systems designed was highly beneficial to the outcome of events.

Why?

Quoting NicoEDDF (Reply 7):
History has proven that there are less forgiving, less reliable, less "easy to fly" airplanes, so Airbus did a damn good job in handing Capt. Sullenberger (and all of his colleagues worldwide for that matter) an impressive tool to handle the situation.

There are several previous water landings that resulted in similar end results:

Japan Airlines Flight 2, a DC-8, landed in San Francisco Bay 2 1/2 miles short of the runway. The aircraft was retrieved, refurbished, and put back into service. http://www.airdisaster.com/reports/ntsb/AAR70-02.pdf

How 'bout a Soviet era TU-124: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_124_ditching_in_Neva_River

Here's an old prop job that ditched in 1956: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...i?f=/c/a/2009/01/24/MN7L15E4IC.DTL

Nothing short of fascinating, but I think this speaks to the pilot's skill rather than the computers.


User currently offlinePrebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 6289 posts, RR: 54
Reply 21, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 6728 times:

Fly by wire had nothing to do with Sullenberger's feat. He would have done exactly the same flying a non-FBW B737.

It is true that all FBW planes have various implimentations of envelope protection. Many non-FBW planes have less advanced envelope protection as well such as stick shaker.

But Sullenberger flew his A320 all way well within the envelope, therefore envelope protection was not relevant at all. Envelope protection is only for guiding the plane and the pilot in a clever way when the pilot does something stupid. Sullenberger never did anything stupid.

Sulenberger's feat was entirely in his decision making.

And then he had fantastic luck with the curcumstances. Had it been dark night, or had the visibility been low (rain, light fog, or very low clouds), or had the altitude been too small to reach the river, or had there been drifting ice on the river as there was a few days later. Etc.

Sullenberger's feat has nothing with the plane to do. His feat was only that under extremely difficult conditions and under extreme time pressure he did all the right things.

Some people still regard FBW as something exceptional or new and fancy. The fact is that no all new, large airliner design has been launched by any western producer during the last 31years without FBW control. The last such non-FBW airliner was the B767 launched in 1978. And it will never happen again.

Airliner design is very conservative because development and certification costs are astronomic. That's the only reason why non-FBW planes are still produced, and have been produced during the last 20 years.

In fact there is little more than one non-FBW large passenger airliner still in production, the B737NG, a very much uprated 40+ years old design, but with fundamentally unchanged design philosophy. To that we can add a trickle run down of B767 orders and 20 future B748i for LH with limited hope for more.



Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs, Preben Norholm
User currently offlineAviateur From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 1350 posts, RR: 12
Reply 22, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 6205 times:

Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 3):
Putting the plane down in the Hudson was not the amazing thing of Sully and his FO's actions.

Thank you.

What Sully and his first officer did was by no means easy, but it was not heroic, and was not nearly as difficult as the layperson believes it was. The crux of the emergency was not the water landing itself, but dealing with a dual engine failure. The idolization of Sully, meanwhile, can be seen as an insult to the many pilots who dealt with more dire emergencies in the past, and who by virtue of (bad) luck were not fortunate enough to make the talk show circuit.

Water landings for dummies: the idolizing of Captain Sully....
http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2009/04/10/askthepilot316/

And as for William Langewiesche, he is an exceptional reporter and a very good writer -- as good as it gets when it comes to Big Media's coverage (we can count Vanity Fair in that category) coverage of air travel issues.


- PS

[Edited 2009-05-12 19:06:25]


Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
User currently offlineMm320cap From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 227 posts, RR: 3
Reply 23, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 5823 times:

What makes you all think the airplane was in Normal Law? With degraded systems the airplane can easily revert to Alternate Law or worse. The A320 does not offer stall protection in some degraded modes. There is not enough information to know what Law they were in and what was going on with the flight computers.

P.S. The A320 is one squirrelly mother to land. I find it WAYYY more difficult than any of the Boeings I've flown.


User currently offlineMm320cap From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 227 posts, RR: 3
Reply 24, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 5756 times:

Just re-read the article. It suggests that they were indeed in Normal Law. I'd like to see what their airspeed/AOA was... but I'd sure bet that it was above Vstall. With the exception of auto-trimming, the airplane flies just like ones with regular hydraulics. My guess is the flight profile would have been the exact same if Sully was flying a 738.

25 Post contains images PITrules : No, it does not. Assuming normal law, the amount of deflection of an Airbus side stick controls rate of pitch/roll. Once desired pitch/roll is achiev
26 Airlinespotter : These people need to move on and leave this pilot ALONE for god's shake. I am sure there are other important news to write about. Come-on people, plea
27 Decoder : I'm sure you're not meaning it in this way, but that can be understood as in non-FBW aircraft you have to keep the yoke deflected to maintain angle o
28 PITrules : You are correct, assuming the aircraft is in equilibrium. Perhaps I could have used a better example.[Edited 2009-05-13 00:28:46]
29 JOEYCAPPS : And how long ago did this happen? Everyone survived? Hoooooray! Case Closed. Stop beating the dead horse.
30 CURLYHEADBOY : Isn't the guy who wrote the article the same who crashed head-on into a 737 in South America? Is it him?
31 QualityDr : What about the DC-3? Read Peter Senge's "The Fifth Discipline" for an interesting discussion of how that venerable bird made air travel a reality. On
32 BALandorLivery : THE AIRCRAFT HAS NO JUDGEMENT OR INSTINCT! THE TWO GUYS IN THAT FLIGHT DECK MADE A VERY GOOD CALL! The a/c cannot ditch itself. That takes judgement r
33 Aerdingus : I do think the crew made some good calls. But I can see what you mean, but I think a lot of the "idolisation" has to do with media portrayal, that ol
34 Milesrich : Skilled pilots have already debunked this latest piece of trash from the Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch's print version of the Fox News Channel.
35 D L X : For what it's worth, Aviateur is a 767 first officer and a columnist.
36 Post contains links Pihero : I did too, and I heartily agree. This is what the author said about the airplane during the incident : ..." Sullenberger's A320 went all the way to t
37 ABC9 : I must concur with Aerdingus here - a most informative and interesting thread from contributors who obviously know their subject, without descending
38 Aerdingus : Thats what I was afraid of, I've never really done a thread like this before. I wanted to see what everyone else thought, and how much exactly the A3
39 NicoEDDF : Read reply 36 of Pihero or, just maybe, the article. That there were some other incidents where similar end results were achieved does not at all sta
40 RFields5421 : Just one note about the links above and in Post 36. The JAL landing in San Francisco Bay was not a planned ditching. The crew did not intend to go in
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