DXB

Altitude bust - my NASA report from today

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I am posting my NASA report filed this am for your ridicule,  given the possibility of there also being some constructive discussion. Of note I was in IMC the entire time in the narrative below. I think both the controller and I screwed up, and luckily there was no terrain in the way.  Scenario has commonalities with TWA 514, which was not as fortunate.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TWA_Flight_514  

"I was approaching KPNE on an assigned vector from the north at 5000ft in IMC. I was then cleared direct KEHSO, an IF for the RNAV Rwy 15 at KPNE, when 20 miles north of fix. At About 15 miles from the fix, I was given a descent to 3000. At about 10 miles from the fix, I was descending through 3500 and was cleared for the approach but given no further altitude instruction. I continued my descent below 3000 to join the approach at a manageable altitude. When I was at 2700 the controller repeated the approach clearance, but this time adding cross KEHSO at 2000, which is the minimum altitude for that waypoint on the RNAV Rwy 15 at KPNE. I was not completely clear on the concept that I must be on a published part of the approach to automatically begin my descent to the minimum altitude for the next fix when given an approach clearance. I also understand now that the controller must provide an altitude instruction when clearing someone for an approach, if the aircraft not on a published part of the approach. When I did not receive such an altitude instruction, I should have inquired regarding altitude rather than continuing my descent below 3000. My own momentary lack of clarity on the regulation should not have kept me from asking for clarification."

 

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Edited by DXB

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MSA is 2600, so given the absence of a minimum altitude, I would think that you must be not below 2600 until you either pass the IF or one of the IAF. Thanks for sharing.

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29 minutes ago, DXB said:

I am posting my NASA report filed this am for your ridicule,  given the possibility of there also being some constructive discussion. Of note I was in IMC the entire time in the narrative below. I think both the controller and I screwed up, and luckily there was no terrain in the way.  Scenario has commonalities with TWA 514, which was not as fortunate.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TWA_Flight_514  

"I was approaching KPNE on an assigned vector from the north at 5000ft in IMC. I was then cleared direct KEHSO, an IF for the RNAV Rwy 15 at KPNE, when 20 miles north of fix. At About 15 miles from the fix, I was given a descent to 3000. At about 10 miles from the fix, I was descending through 3500 and was cleared for the approach but given no further altitude instruction. I continued my descent below 3000 to join the approach at a manageable altitude. When I was at 2700 the controller repeated the approach clearance, but this time adding cross KEHSO at 2000, which is the minimum altitude for that waypoint on the RNAV Rwy 15 at KPNE. I was not completely clear on the concept that I must be on a published part of the approach to automatically begin my descent to the minimum altitude for the next fix when given an approach clearance. I also understand now that the controller must provide an altitude instruction when clearing someone for an approach, if the aircraft not on a published part of the approach. When I did not receive such an altitude instruction, I should have inquired regarding altitude rather than continuing my descent below 3000. My own momentary lack of clarity on the regulation should not have kept me from asking for clarification."

 

 

Yuck.  Were you certain you heard "cleared" for the approach on the first call?  Is it possible he said something like "join", "continue" or "expect"?  It seems strange that he intended to get you to the IF 1000' above the published approach altitude.  

I usually like doing the whole procedure through an IAF because there's less communication necessary.  I got vectored around the world while landing at Palo Alto last month, and they kept telling me to "continue" the approach.  I had to ask ATC twice if I was actually cleared for the approach or not.

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18 minutes ago, 201er said:

MSA is 2600, so given the absence of a minimum altitude, I would think that you must be not below 2600 until you either pass the IF or one of the IAF. Thanks for sharing.

I think the MSA is just advisory and isn't used to define flown altitudes after cleared for an approach. You may be thinking of TAAs, which replace feeder routes and do let you come down to the charted altitude in the pie section when cleared for the approach.

Image result for terminal arrival area

Edited by DXB
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12 minutes ago, jaylw314 said:

Yuck.  Were you certain you heard "cleared" for the approach on the first call? 

I'm dead certain.   When he issued the clearance a second time, I don't think he was necessarily responding to my altitude bust, just correcting his own error in not issuing an altitude until established the first time he read the clearance. I wasn't informed of my screw up or given a number to call or anything.  My lack of concern about enforcement in this scenario is what made me comfortable posting my goof for discussion.  

Edited by DXB

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13 minutes ago, DXB said:

I'm dead certain.   When he issued the clearance a second time, I don't think he was necessarily responding to my altitude bust, just correcting his own error in not issuing an altitude until established the first time he read the clearance. I wasn't informed of my screw up or given a number to call or anything.  My lack of concern about enforcement in this scenario is what made me comfortable posting my goof for discussion.  

That's kind of what it sounded like, just wanted to make sure you were certain.  I've certainly heard it wrong and had to clarify more than once...

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I would keep the narrative of what happened in a file stored away on your computer if you ever get called in.  Lawyers have told me that on the NASA reports to keep it as simple as possible.

You could have simply wrote "possible altitude deviation, approximate time date and tail number, no conflict was reported"""

you can even leave most of the sections blank.

This satisfies the requirement to report it.....

certainly write down in your private file everything that happed so if you have to do a carpet dance months from now you are armed.

Don't give up any information you don't have to.....it is never in your favor.

Do others have thoughts on this?

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1 hour ago, DXB said:

At about 10 miles from the fix, I was descending through 3500 and was cleared for the approach but given no further altitude instruction.

“Cleared for the approach” is your clearance. It means you are expected to establish yourself on a publish segment of the approach and fly the approach. So establishing means you get to published altitudes at published waypoints. In this case continue and be at 2000 at KEHSO. This is your clearance for the approach including the descent to the published altitudes. You were descending and the controller simply cleared you. Just continue your descent to KEHSO. He knows you’re at 3500 descending and is clearing you expecting you to be at 2000 at KEHSO.

NASA report not necessary.

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Just now, PTK said:

“Cleared for the approach” is your clearance. It means you are expected to establish yourself on a publish segment of the approach and fly the approach. So establishing means you descend to the altitudes printed on the plate. This is your clearance for the approach including the descent to the published altitudes. You were descending and the controller cleared you. Just continue your descent to KEHSO. He knows you’re at 3500 descending and is clearing you expecting you to be at 2000 at KEHSO.

NASA report not necessary.

Disagree (after looking up carefully, following my uncertainty this am).  I was not on a published part of the approach, a feeder route, or in a TAA when given the clearance. I was flying direct to an IF, and so I had no discretion in descending below 3000.  Controller is also supposed to issue an altitude instruction with the clearance in this scenario and presumably forgot.  

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4 minutes ago, Jim Peace said:

I would keep the narrative of what happened in a file stored away on your computer if you ever get called in.  Lawyers have told me that on the NASA reports to keep it as simple as possible.

You could have simply wrote "possible altitude deviation, approximate time date and tail number, no conflict was reported"""

you can even leave most of the sections blank.

This satisfies the requirement to report it.....

certainly write down in your private file everything that happed so if you have to do a carpet dance months from now you are armed.

Don't give up any information you don't have to.....it is never in your favor.

Do others have thoughts on this?

Yes, it is just as possible that filling an ASRS with the obvious intention of doing so to attempt to avoid any FAA action will obviate its protective purpose.  Consider that the immunity from enforcement action is an FAA policy, not regulation, and they are the ones interpreting that policy.  Filing an ASRS without, for example, explaining what type of corrective steps could be taken and why, would probably not be interpreted by the FAA as a "constructive safety attitude."

 

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9 minutes ago, Jim Peace said:

I would keep the narrative of what happened in a file stored away on your computer if you ever get called in.  Lawyers have told me that on the NASA reports to keep it as simple as possible.

You could have simply wrote "possible altitude deviation, approximate time date and tail number, no conflict was reported"""

you can even leave most of the sections blank.

This satisfies the requirement to report it.....

certainly write down in your private file everything that happed so if you have to do a carpet dance months from now you are armed.

Don't give up any information you don't have to.....it is never in your favor.

Do others have thoughts on this?

That is certainly the lawyer perspective on how to handle just about anything. My posting it on Mooneyspace would give attorneys a heart attack.  If I did this stuff for a living like you guys, I would also be much more careful in how I talk about my mistakes, as there is a lot more on the line.   However @jaylw314's perspective on how the NASA report is used to weigh whether an enforcement action will be pursued makes sense to me, and so the knee jerk lawyer response on how to give out information may not apply.  

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18 minutes ago, DXB said:

Disagree (after looking up carefully, following my uncertainty this am).  I was not on a published part of the approach, a feeder route, or in a TAA when given the clearance. I was flying direct to an IF, and so I had no discretion in descending below 3000.  Controller is also supposed to issue an altitude instruction with the clearance in this scenario and presumably forgot.  

So if you’re cruising along in IMC and receive a clearance to descend you shouldn’t descend? Have you ever heard of a cruise clearance? That’s what you received. It just so happened to be right before the approach and confused you.

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Just now, PTK said:

So if I’m cruising along in IMC and I receive a clearance to descend I shouldn’t descend? Have you ever heard of a cruise clearance? 

Yes I have. I did not receive a cruise clearance.  I did not receive any clearance at all to descend below 3000.  I was not on a published part of the approach when I was cleared for the approach.  Without further altitude instruction, I had no discretion to descend below 3000. TWA 514 made the same mistake.  But controllers are supposed to give you a clear altitude instruction in this scenario I believe. 

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9 minutes ago, DXB said:

I did not receive any clearance at all to descend below 3000. 

You were “cleared for the approach” and instructed to cross KEHSO at 2000. What more do you need?!

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1 minute ago, PTK said:

You were “cleared for the approach” and instructed to cross KEHSO at 2000. What more do you need?

read the original post again - I was only cleared to 2000 when the controller issued same approach clearance a second time, after I had busted 3000.

Edited by DXB

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8 minutes ago, DXB said:

Yes I have. I did not receive a cruise clearance.  I did not receive any clearance at all to descend below 3000.  I was not on a published part of the approach when I was cleared for the approach.  Without further altitude instruction, I had no discretion to descend below 3000. TWA 514 made the same mistake.  But controllers are supposed to give you a clear altitude instruction in this scenario I believe. 

FWIW, here's the section from the AIM:

ATC may clear aircraft that have filed an Advanced RNAV equipment suffix to the intermediate fix when clearing aircraft for an instrument approach procedure. ATC will take the following actions when clearing Advanced RNAV aircraft to the intermediate fix:

1. Provide radar monitoring to the intermediate fix.

2. Advise the pilot to expect clearance direct to the intermediate fix at least 5 miles from the fix.

NOTE – This is to allow the pilot to program the RNAV equipment to allow the aircraft to fly to the intermediate fix when cleared by ATC.

3. Assign an altitude to maintain until the intermediate fix.

4. Ensure the aircraft is on a course that will intercept the intermediate segment at an angle not greater than 90 degrees and is at an altitude that will permit normal descent from the intermediate fix to the final approach fix.

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1) Being vectored around, not on the approach...

2) Altitude at 3k’, above the MSA 2600’, 15 nm out...

3) Cleared for the approach... 

4) MSA is 2600’, 25nm circle...

5) Descending before the IAF,  Kehso,

6) altitude at Kehso must be above 2k’...

 

The challenge...

7) ATC is having the pilot descend, last instruction was to 3k’...

8) Pilot wants to be at 2600’, at/above MSA So is safe... prep for going lower...

9) Pilot intends to descend to 2k’ after Kehso...

10) ATC was expecting to hold pilot at 3k’...

11) pilot descended 400’, earlier than ATC expected...

 

Is this a technicality?

12) pilot was cleared for the approach...

13) the approach doesn’t technically start, until he is over the IAF?

14) The MSA is right on the IAP...

15) when does the approach actually begin?

16) when is the PIC authorized to execute altitudes available on the a IAP?

 

Lots of questions came up in the end... as I was trying to capture what I understand happened...

Right about the time i’d Be starting the descent... an uncomfortable feeling would arise...

Uh, ATC, am I cleared to descend to the IAF from here? :)

@midlifeflyer is good for adding some sense to these discussions...

Dev, thanks for sharing the details...

Let me know if I have missed any of the details...

Best regards,

-a-

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44 minutes ago, DXB said:

read the original post again - I was only cleared to 2000 when the controller issued same approach clearance a second time, after I had busted 3000.

He has you on radar and gave you specific clearance language: “cleared for the approach.” Furthermore he gave you instructions “cross KEHSO at 2000” You did nothing wrong and neither did the controller. You became confused because you were on non published leg. 

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18 minutes ago, PTK said:

He has you on radar and gave you clearance. You did nothing wrong and neither did the controller. You became confused because you were on non published leg. 

Incorrect. Tired of repeating myself. Both controller and I each made a clear mistake. Controller's mistake is highlighted in verbiage from AIM above. 

The 91.175 FAR language that is relevant is as follows:

When operating on an unpublished route or while being radar vectored, the pilot, when an approach clearance is received, shall, in addition to complying with Sec. 91.177, maintain the last altitude assigned to that pilot until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or instrument approach procedure unless a different altitude is assigned by ATC. After the aircraft is so established, published altitudes apply to descent within each succeeding route or approach segment unless a different altitude is assigned by ATC

Edited by DXB
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17 minutes ago, DXB said:

Incorrect. Tired of repeating myself. Both controller and I each made a clear mistake. Controller's mistake is highlighted in verbiage from AIM above. 

 

I am too!

The controller cleared you for the approach from your present position without vectoring you to an IAF. He expected you stop at 3000. Why did you descend below 3000?

 

 

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Many, many people get this wrong, its something that has to be emphasized with instrument students repeatedly along with the definition of "established" (try looking that one up!). we also see the very similar mistake made by pilots, that after being cleared for the approach and intercepting final don't start down because the controller told them to "maintain xxx feet" along with the their approach clearance - again failure to understand "established". 

But absolutely, you were not cleared to descend below 3K' when you got your initial approach clearance. Nor would I consider that a mistake by his part because you were likely still too far out for him to clear you below 3K. he could have added expect lower in x miles but its kinda a waste of time. But I am very confident, he saw your altitude, dip below 3K, at 2700, sees your target showing still assigned to 3000, but by now you are close enough that his MVA allows him to clear you down to 2000', so he does to avoid doing an deviation paperwork. I am very confident that if you had descend below 3K before his MVA had dropped below that he would have been saying check altitude.

Even in very busy TRACON's its not unusual to get cleared for an approach many miles out if the approach doesn't have any traffic. But that far out he's not necessarily going to clear you lower given he had you coming down to 3000' as it was. He had plenty of time. 

BTW, charted MSA has nothing to do with this as you said above. 

Edited by kortopates
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5 minutes ago, PTK said:

I am too!

The controller cleared you for the approach from your present position without vectoring you to an IAF. He cleared you to the IF enabling you to be at the IF at 2000. 

The relevant regulatory and advisory language is posted above now, so there is no ambiguity. Your understanding is incorrect. Mine was faulty too until this am. Perhaps someone with greater authority on this matter will convince you.  

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2 minutes ago, kortopates said:

But absolutely, you were not cleared to descend below 3K' when you got your initial approach clearance. Nor would I consider that a mistake by his part because you were likely still too far out for him to clear you below 3K. he could have added expect lower in x miles but its kinda a waste of time. But I am very confident, he saw your altitude, dip below 3K, at 2700, sees your target showing still assigned to 3000, but by now you are close enough that his MVA allows him to clear you down to 2000', so he does to avoid doing an deviation paperwork. I am very confident that if you had descend below 3K before his MVA had dropped below that he would have been saying check altitude.

Even in very busy TRACON's its not unusual to get cleared for an approach many miles out if the approach doesn't have any traffic. But that far out he's not necessarily going to clear you lower given he had you coming down to 2000' as it was. He had plenty of time. 

Shouldn't there be an altitude assignment given with any approach clearance when one is not already on a published segment or airway (or the odd cruise clearance example)?   I found someone citing JO 7110.65T 4-8-1 as saying "If the aircraft is on an unpublished route to the IAF, the controller must specify an altitude to maintain until established on a published route, or a segment of the approach." I am having trouble finding the  language in the document directly though.  The (admittedly nonregulatory) AIM language cited above says the same thing.  

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2 minutes ago, DXB said:

Shouldn't there be an altitude assignment given with any approach clearance when one is not already on a published segment or airway (or the odd cruise clearance example)?   I found someone citing JO 7110.65T 4-8-1 as saying "If the aircraft is on an unpublished route to the IAF, the controller must specify an altitude to maintain until established on a published route, or a segment of the approach." I am having trouble finding the  language in the document directly though.  The (admittedly nonregulatory) AIM language cited above says the same thing.  

Yes, but after being cleared for the approach 10 miles out from the fix while you were still at 3500' descending for 3000', I am sure he felt he couldn't yet clear you for lower than 3k that far out. (although we don't know the MVA at the area unless you ask next time). Its perfectly normal for them to still give lower as you get closer and as his MVA allowed.  Its likely his lowest cleared altitude for the approach won't come till just a few miles out from KEHSO.  Even though he has cleared you for the approach, he'll continue clear you for lower altitudes as you get closer and his MVA allows. That's pretty typical, but not all that common to be cleared that far out so I am sure you are much more accustomed to not hearing cleared for the approach until you only a mile or more away from the fix and then you are hearing his final altitude. But it can still happen when the controller doesn't have other traffic coming on to the same approach.

As an extreme example, I have been cleared for a localizer approach to the same airport soon as I checked in after takeoff and asked for the full approach. . The controller immediately cleared me for the approach via flying the localizer outbound and gave me a altitude for the climb. By doing this, it canceled me flying the departure procedure going away from the airport and had me intercepting and the localizer outbound to a procedure turn. On the way out he updated my assigned altitude in steps till he had me at about 7700' for the procedure turn and then asked me to report established inbound. Soon as I reported established inbound, he handed me off back to tower even though I was still many miles from the FAF.  But I had several cleared altitude changes along the way.

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