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Auto-pilot Landing On Commercial Airliners?  
User currently offlineJawed From United States of America, joined Sep 2006, 482 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 17877 times:

How common are fully automatic autopilot-landings on commercial passenger flights?

If they are not common, why do pilots perform manual landings? Is it for fun and practice, or is it because they are actually better than the autopilot?

In a fully automatic autopilot landing, can the computer perform advanced crosswind techniques such as crabbing etc?

A friend once told me that he was on a 777 flight where the pilot announced after landing (in zero visibility) that the passengers could thank the computer for the landing because it would have been impossible to do manually. Does that sound right?

And finally: in an autopilot landing, is it really as simple as pushing a button or do the pilots still have to do a bunch of work?

71 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineThrottleHold From South Africa, joined Jul 2006, 657 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 17919 times:

Quoting Jawed (Thread starter):
A friend once told me that he was on a 777 flight where the pilot announced after landing (in zero visibility) that the passengers could thank the computer for the landing because it would have been impossible to do manually. Does that sound right?

Yes, that sounds correct.

Autolands are not done very often. They can be made in good and bad weather but they are usually carried out when RVR (Runway Visual Range) is low.

A CAT I ILS approach requires an Touchdown Zone RVR of more than 550m and a DH (decision height) of no less than 200`
A CAT II ILS approach lowers the minimums to 300m and 100`.
A CAT IIIa ILS approach lowers them to 200m and 50`.
A CAT IIIb ILS approach has RVR down to 75m and no DH.
There is also a CAT IIIc appraoch, but I'm not well up on those as they are very uncommon.

There are also limitations on mid-point and end-point RVR's depending on other factors.

They required minimum RVR must be attained before commencing an approach. On reaching DH, the pilots must be able to see sufficient visual references in order to continue to land, or a go-around is initiated.
On a CAT I or II approach, it is possible to disconnect the autopilot and land manually, or continue with the autoland.
On CAT III approaches the autoland is carried out. At the point of DH, there is very little time left till touchdown, so it is advisable to let the autopilot continue rather than destabilize by disconnecting.
When there is no DH, there is no requirement to have visual contact with the runway before landing, therefore it would be impossible to land manually.
The system can also provide steering and guidance on the rollout along the runway after landing, meaning the autopilot is disconnected only when at taxi speed and turning off the runway.

There are many limitatons on these approaches.
The aircraft must be certified.
The crew must be trained and certified
The runway ILS must be off a certain standard.
The airfield must have low vis operations in force.
etc etc.

Quoting Jawed (Thread starter):
In a fully automatic autopilot landing, can the computer perform advanced crosswind techniques such as crabbing etc?

Some aircraft will land with the crab in place, others that have a rudder channel to the autopilot can remove the crab on touchdown.

Quoting Jawed (Thread starter):
And finally: in an autopilot landing, is it really as simple as pushing a button or do the pilots still have to do a bunch of work?

Never as simple as pushing a button! A low vis autoland is a serious procedure. The autopilot/autothrust must be monitored closely for faults. The aircraft has to be configured with flaps/gear/speeds as normal.
If anything goes wrong, or even just doesn't look right it's best to hit TO/GA and get out of there. Then we can watch the auto go-around function!


Procedures and requirements vary from aircraft to aircraft and from country to country, I'm just giving a general oversight for the lay person.


User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17039 posts, RR: 66
Reply 2, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 17876 times:

Quoting Jawed (Thread starter):
If they are not common, why do pilots perform manual landings? Is it for fun and practice, or is it because they are actually better than the autopilot?

Pilots think flying manually is fun, but there are also other factors. To do an autoland, the aircraft has to be set on the ILS from a fair distance. With a manual landing, there can be visual turns close to the runway and so forth. Thus autolands limit landing capacity for the airport.

As for the autopilot or the pilots being better, it depends very much on the aircraft. Some autopilots/autothrottle systems are very very slick nowadays. But as said before, they still can't perform visual turns onto final and such.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineIahflyr From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 4790 posts, RR: 22
Reply 3, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 17834 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 2):
But as said before, they still can't perform visual turns onto final and such.

Are you saying an auto-pilot can't intercept a final approach course or simply that the auto-land funtion is usually not done with a turn onto final say closer than 5 NM?



Any views shared are strictly my own and do not a represent those of any former employer.
User currently offlineLucky42 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 17828 times:

Quoting ThrottleHold (Reply 1):
On CAT III approaches the autoland is carried out. At the point of DH, there is very little time left till touchdown

On a true cat III approach there is no DH..It is actually an AH (alert height).


User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17039 posts, RR: 66
Reply 5, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 17810 times:

Quoting Iahflyr (Reply 3):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 2):
But as said before, they still can't perform visual turns onto final and such.

Are you saying an auto-pilot can't intercept a final approach course or simply that the auto-land funtion is usually not done with a turn onto final say closer than 5 NM?

I don't know the NM figure, but I'm pretty sure you can't autoland into LGA with the final turn under 1000 ft and right at the airport.

As for intercepting a final approach course, I'm pretty sure you CAN do that. Don't quote me on any of this  Wink



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineThrottleHold From South Africa, joined Jul 2006, 657 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 17811 times:

Quoting Lucky42 (Reply 4):
On a true cat III approach there is no DH..It is actually an AH (alert height).

A CAT IIIa appraoch has a decision height, a CAT IIIb does not.


User currently offlineAirWillie6475 From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 2448 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 17801 times:

From what I heard from talking to a few pilots most do the approach manually with computer guidance, unless there is weather of course. It's not only practice but it's the only time they get to have any fun since most of the time they are just talking to atc and pushing buttons. By the way autopilot is a luxury most non turbine and some turbine planes have no autopilot so pilots have to fly the whole time even in 0 visibility.

User currently offlineThrottleHold From South Africa, joined Jul 2006, 657 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 17781 times:

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 7):
most non turbine and some turbine planes have no autopilot so pilots have to fly the whole time even in 0 visibility.

If there is no autopilot they are limited to CAT I approaches only with minimum RVR of 550m.


User currently offlineEssentialPowr From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1820 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 17631 times:

When Cat II/III approaches, and/or autolands are being conducted, typically the visability is low with calm or little wind. The 737 has a 10 kt cross wind limitation for an autoland, most airlines typically require 1 autoland every 30 days.

User currently offlineEjazz From United Arab Emirates, joined May 2002, 722 posts, RR: 33
Reply 10, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 17627 times:

Quoting ThrottleHold (Reply 6):
A CAT IIIa appraoch has a decision height, a CAT IIIb does not.

That all depends on the Airlines Governing Body and what approval the Airline has received from the Countries it operates to. Many Airlines have a 20ft DH for CATIIIB approaches.

Quoting ThrottleHold (Reply 8):
f there is no autopilot they are limited to CAT I approaches only with minimum RVR of 550m.

Again it depends on what certification the Airline/Aircraft have received. Some particular aircraft types are approved to be manually flown beyond CatI to CATII minimas of 100ft with minimum 350m visibility.

I believe commercial aircraft equipped with HUD can even be manually flown to CATIIIA minima but maybe someone here can confirm that.



Etihad Girl, You're a great way to fly.
User currently offlineTristarSteve From Sweden, joined Nov 2005, 4007 posts, RR: 34
Reply 11, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 17605 times:

Quoting Jawed (Thread starter):
How common are fully automatic autopilot-landings on commercial passenger flights?

I meet short haul A320 and long haul B777 here at work.

The short haul aircraft that land here do autolands only when weather conditions require it. As we rarely have weather worse than Cat 1, we end up with about 1 landing in 200 an autoland.
The long haul aircraft that land after flying 12hrs through the night, about every other landing is an autoland!! I commented to one of the pilots about this and he admitted it was easier when he was tired.


User currently offlineNonfirm From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 434 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 17576 times:

Quoting ThrottleHold (Reply 1):
Autolands are not done very often. They can be made in good and bad weather but they are usually carried out when RVR (Runway Visual Range) is low.

We perform autolands every month to keep the a/c current.If the a/c misses it's 30 day autoland eval then we have to downgrade the a/c to CAT I until the autoland has been completed.. airplane 


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14026 posts, RR: 62
Reply 13, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 17564 times:

The minimums for CAT IIIc would be 0/0. Practically all CAT IIIb certified aircraft can make it, but then they would be stuck on the runway, because they would not be able to find their way to the stand. There exist a few airports (LHR comes to my mind) which have a taxi guidance system, but the aircraft must be equipped to use this system as well. Now since very few airports have such a system, most airlines don't install the necessary hardware on their aircraft.

Jan


User currently offlineIAHFLYR From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 4790 posts, RR: 22
Reply 14, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 17498 times:

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 5):
I don't know the NM figure, but I'm pretty sure you can't autoland into LGA with the final turn under 1000 ft and right at the airport.

As for intercepting a final approach course, I'm pretty sure you CAN do that. Don't quote me on any of this

Ahhhh shit, I quoted you on this here........darn it!  Smile Yeah I know they can do all the turns etc, you may be correct about the 1,000' cuzz most want their airplanes stabilzed at 1,000' AGL in the first place (Capt to chief pilot, "sir, I don't know what the plane was doing but I was stablized at 1,000' AGL")  angel 

Quoting EssentialPowr (Reply 9):
When Cat II/III approaches, and/or autolands are being conducted, typically the visability is low with calm or little wind. The 737 has a 10 kt cross wind limitation for an autoland, most airlines typically require 1 autoland every 30 days

Had you been flyin last week on Wed and not commuting you'd have had your autoland done with the RVR's around 800' for 26L!!!  relieved 



Any views shared are strictly my own and do not a represent those of any former employer.
User currently offlineCosmicCruiser From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 2255 posts, RR: 15
Reply 15, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 17490 times:

Quoting IAHFLYR (Reply 14):
I know they can do all the turns etc, you may be correct about the 1,000' cuzz most want their airplanes stabilzed at 1,000' AGL in the first place

I'm sure most CATIII jets would be the same but for sure the MD-11 performs a dual land check that starts at about 1500' so turning on at a 1000' would blow the check. It won't happen

Quoting Ejazz (Reply 10):
Again it depends on what certification the Airline/Aircraft have received. Some particular aircraft types are approved to be manually flown beyond CatI to CATII minimas of 100ft with minimum 350m visibility.

Yep, I used to fly for a co. that was certified to hand fly CATII app.


User currently offlineUsnseallt82 From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 4891 posts, RR: 52
Reply 16, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 17350 times:

Quoting ThrottleHold (Reply 1):
A CAT I ILS approach requires an Touchdown Zone RVR of more than 550m and a DH (decision height) of no less than 200`
A CAT II ILS approach lowers the minimums to 300m and 100`.
A CAT IIIa ILS approach lowers them to 200m and 50`.
A CAT IIIb ILS approach has RVR down to 75m and no DH.
There is also a CAT IIIc appraoch, but I'm not well up on those as they are very uncommon

Beat me to it.  Big grin

We have a CAT III approach out here at JAX and its pretty amazing to watch the birds bring in themselves. However, they are very strict in keeping those approaches to only those who are certified for them. Otherwise, every numbnut with a Cessna and autopilot would be trying to practice them.



Crye me a river
User currently offlineIAHFLYR From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 4790 posts, RR: 22
Reply 17, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 17279 times:

Quoting CosmicCruiser (Reply 15):
I'm sure most CATIII jets would be the same but for sure the MD-11 performs a dual land check that starts at about 1500' so turning on at a 1000' would blow the check. It won't happen

What does being stabilized at 1,000' have to do with turning at 1,000'?



Any views shared are strictly my own and do not a represent those of any former employer.
User currently offlineIAHFLYR From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 4790 posts, RR: 22
Reply 18, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 17277 times:

Quoting Usnseallt82 (Reply 16):
However, they are very strict in keeping those approaches to only those who are certified for them. Otherwise, every numbnut with a Cessna and autopilot would be trying to practice them.

Who is keeping track of who is making autolands or not and if they are conducted in CAT III weather how do you see them?  Smile



Any views shared are strictly my own and do not a represent those of any former employer.
User currently offlineEssentialPowr From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1820 posts, RR: 2
Reply 19, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 17266 times:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Smile

[Edited 2006-10-09 05:18:50]

User currently offlineUsnseallt82 From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 4891 posts, RR: 52
Reply 20, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 17262 times:

Quoting EssentialPowr (Reply 19):
Hey Usnseallt82, we are all impressed with your profile and title at a.net and all...

Don't see how this has any relevance to the topic.

Quoting EssentialPowr (Reply 19):
Have you ever flown a Cat II or III approach?

I've flown a CAT II approach, but never a CAT III. I'd like to one day, but I would imagine that I'd be doing it in a simulator before I'd do the real thing.

Quoting EssentialPowr (Reply 19):
Who keeps track of who is making autolands and under what conditions?

You have to specifically request a CAT II or III approach and then ATC decides whether or not to give it to you. From what I understand, your aircraft information and certification that is uploaded with your IFR flight plan says whether or not you can do it, if you're filing into IFR conditions. I may be wrong about this, but its how the military does it. If you aren't in equipment certified for the approach or don't have the certification yourself, you can't do it.

Now, will someone pimp you until you confess over the airwaves that you shouldn't be doing it? Probably not. But if you do it and ATC has any inclination that you shouldn't have been, expect a ramp check when you land. They don't play around with 0/0 approaches.

If someone can clarify the airlines' methods, have at it.



Crye me a river
User currently offlinePhxplanes From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 436 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 17238 times:

So do do airlines require the aircraft or the pilots to do one auto land a month?

Personally for me I would want to do all the take-offs and landings by hand because it would be more fun.


User currently offlineHAWK21M From India, joined Jan 2001, 31684 posts, RR: 56
Reply 22, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 17194 times:

Quoting Phxplanes (Reply 21):
So do do airlines require the aircraft or the pilots to do one auto land a month?

Personally for me I would want to do all the take-offs and landings by hand because it would be more fun.

The reason is to keep in touch in case of the need for Autoland.With Visability dropped.Its no fun  Smile
regds
MEL



Think of the brighter side!
User currently offlineStarlionblue From Greenland, joined Feb 2004, 17039 posts, RR: 66
Reply 23, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 17166 times:

Quoting Phxplanes (Reply 21):

Personally for me I would want to do all the take-offs and landings by hand because it would be more fun.

As HAWK21M says, the giggle factor drops dramatically if you can't see anything.

Also, why shouldn't autolands be fun? That too is piloting, and requires significant skill to do correctly.



"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots."
User currently offlineIAHFLYR From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 4790 posts, RR: 22
Reply 24, posted (7 years 11 months 2 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 17160 times:

Quoting IAHFLYR (Reply 17):
What does being stabilized at 1,000' have to do with turning at 1,000'?

Oh huge typo....should have being stablized at 1,000' and autolands don't happen in normal situations....CAT III condition the turn to final is not closer than 8-9 miles in the states.

[Edited 2006-10-09 13:58:06]


Any views shared are strictly my own and do not a represent those of any former employer.
25 Post contains images IAHFLYR : Nope, you don't have to request it......weather in the toilet and the runway has a charted CAT II/III ILS then you get it, no requesting it, SIR! Nex
26 CosmicCruiser : I think you may have answered your own question in a later post but to clarify what I said: The jet must be tracking the LOC and GS above 1500' at wh
27 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : Must be something with our regs then, because we have to specifically request it before we can shoot the approach. I would imagine that most airliner
28 113312 : Not quite right. In the USA, FAA flight plans have no information about the approach category of a given flight. Even if there were a code to initial
29 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : Exactly...which is why I said this... ATC can't just give you the approach. You have to request it because only you know what your capabilities are.
30 CosmicCruiser : As was posted by me and a couple of others ; ATC will clear you for the ILS app. It's up to you to know your mins. you may be comparing apples to ora
31 PhilSquares : As far as the aircraft is concerned, there is no difference between a CAT II or CAT III. They're both autoland approaches. If you inform tower you wa
32 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : Not the equipment itself, but the fact that you're going down to 0/0 conditions. That's pretty sensitive. Trivia question here....which airline was t
33 TristarSteve : A BEA Trident !C made the first autoland in scheduled service with ordinary passengers on board on 10 June 1965. It was Cat3b certified at that time
34 IAHFLYR : Exactly correct except for the first sentence my friend.....ATC doesn't clear you for the CAT II or III ILS, simply "cleared for the ILS Runway 27app
35 PhilSquares : It might be like that under the FAA, however, every CATII or CAT III approach I've ever flown in the US or any other part of the world has had the sp
36 Post contains images IAHFLYR : Sure don't want to say your mistaken and with all due respect, but I may have to on this one sir!! In the US about your clearance issued, even with 3
37 CosmicCruiser : Consider for what it's worth that there's no distingtion between IIIA or IIIB. This involves diff. RVR criterior and mins but it's up to you to know t
38 EssentialPowr : Wrong...ref IAHflyr's comments... My point is that you don't have a whole lot of correct knowledge or experience on the topic, but you seem to imply
39 Post contains images IAHFLYR : That would be me........but funny as it might seem I do know of guy with much more $$ than brains (no not me Essential, I've got nun of either ) that
40 Usnseallt82 : You have to request a CAT II approach. ATC can offer it, but only you know your minimums. I've flown a CAT II. Therein lies the base of my knowledge.
41 Post contains images Iahflyr : Sir, why won't you accept what is being told to you, it is the real stuff......from folks who fly it, control it and more? Fact....ATC does not have
42 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : You're kidding me, right? Not once have I said that ATC requests it. I think this is where you guys are getting me confused. What I've meant this ent
43 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : One more thing, which is completely my fault because I haven't been real clear in my posts, as I just looked back over them again. I never meant to i
44 Pihero : I beg to disagree, TristarSteve. That airplane might have well performed the first automatic landing with pasengers on-board, the first aircraft to b
45 Post contains images IAHFLYR : Pal not kidding you at all.....it isn't anyone is saying ATC requests you fly the CAT II/III, it is that you will get a clearance for the approach an
46 Essentialpowr : My argument makes total sense; IAHFLYR explained the majority of it to you of Cat II/IIIs to you, multiple times, I might add. There is no shame in t
47 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : No worries....I thrive on being harsh. And yes, my standpoint is largely from theory and in the sim, not from as much practical experience as I would
48 Post contains images Bond007 : But perhaps this is a matter of interpretation....if you were going to normally be cleared for the visual approach...but you were practicing ILS appr
49 NZ8800 : Just throwing in from a passenger perspective... Cat III approaches can be scary back in the cabin... like breaking out of the clouds about three seco
50 Usnseallt82 : I had to request the ILS, not a CAT. CAT is never mentioned.
51 Post contains images Bond007 : There lies the confusion! Perhaps you meant....you have to request the ILS ??? Maybe that solves this part of the discussion Jimbo
52 Post contains images IAHFLYR : And you liked the taste didn't you? Don't look then!!! I really do think there should be a PA made for this type of stuff like I heard made a few wee
53 SB : Up here there are a few more things to consider for autolands: The airport must have the back-up generator running when cat II/III approaches are taki
54 Bond007 : That's the same as the US, and I'm sure an ICAO requirement for other countries. For Cat II or higher, there must be a maximum 1 second delay between
55 Iahflyr : MMMMM interesting That is not the case in the US, unless it is going from a 2.5NM separation to a 3NM separation because the tower can't see the turn
56 EssentialPowr : What is all this crap about "being requested"? If you have not flown a Cat II/III approach, or controlled someone for one in a Part 121 op, please qu
57 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : How about you enlighten all of us with your vast experience, since you seem to know everything there is to know about everything.
58 Pihero : I am sorry but this thread is a complete mess as people don't listen to each other and different situations are being confused . The main point is tha
59 IAHFLYR : All true, it doesn't. There are about a bizillion checklists for getting into CAT II/III operations at an airport and in the atc facility, hard to be
60 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : I'm going to have to agree here. It seems as though some of us have different experiences with the approaches, both on the ATC side and the pilot's s
61 Post contains images IAHFLYR : [quote=Usnseallt82,reply=60]The consensus that we can come to is that if you don't know what the hell you're doing, don't do the approach. Oh what a c
62 Usnseallt82 : Apparently not or else the NTSB wouldn't be near as busy.
63 Essentialpowr : What more would you like to know? Flying a CAt II/III is pretty much internal to the cockpit...The thread asked about Auto Lands, to which I offerred
64 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : Not...its in Pax River. They had a mobile one here for a while on the back of an 18-wheeler. Boeing's project, I think. Listen buddy, I wasn't trying
65 Post contains images IAHFLYR : Can't resist this comment.......... You don't hear ATC talk much (turn up the volume in the headset)!!! Don't hurt me now. But wow, I bet most airlin
66 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : Hardy har har.... I should have been more clear....as has been the case throughout this thread. We don't get to hear the ATC side of things off-camer
67 IAHFLYR : hahaha oh yes and we have a few of those situations that occur.....I always prefer to hear a readback before a start a tirade about someones "mother"
68 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : Or the everpresent anonymous voice on the airwaves who will sometimes just casually say "asshole" when Houston Center, oops.....I mean, a random ATC
69 Post contains images IAHFLYR : Houston Center.....u mean where they are all named "Roger"?
70 Post contains images Usnseallt82 : Well hell.......I thought they were calling me Roger. Who the hell's Roger, Roger? Either that or everyone's name is just...."uhhh.....okay." Of cour
71 Post contains images David L : Oh yes. I've lost count of the number of times one of the "experts" in CivAv has stated that autolands "hardly ever happen" because they're "hardly e
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