DXB

Altitude bust - my NASA report from today

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1 hour ago, kortopates said:

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.

I understand  it was reasonable for the controller to want me at 3000 and to plan to drop me down a bit later to join the approach. My issue is that I was assigned 3000 well before being given the approach clearance, and then was later provided the clearance as simply "cleared for the approach"  without any altitude instruction whatsoever.  That had never happened to me before when not already established on a published route, and so caused some cognitive dissonance that I resolved incorrectly.  However both the AIM's guidance and official ATC policy (JO 7110.65T) seem to indicate that ATC should also explicitly assign altitude when reading a clearance to an aircraft not already on a published segment, so I still wonder if there is some shared blame here.  

As this thread illustrates, I'm not the only one confused by this issue.  Some of those folks (e.g. @PTK) remain incredulous even when presented with the correct information on this topic  ;)

Edited by DXB
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I've never been cleared for an approach that far out . . . But VFR is a whole 'nother world--I was once headed SE towards a Class D with radar, 12 miles from the field and was cleared to land on 30 . . . .

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I actually agree with PTK that in this situation you were cleared to join the approach and needed to maintain the previously assigned altitude until established or a lower altitude was given.  I think he noticed you were below altitude and amended the clearance vs adding confusion/stress right before the approach. 

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20 minutes ago, MIm20c said:

I actually agree with PTK that in this situation you were cleared to join the approach and needed to maintain the previously assigned altitude until established or a lower altitude was given.  I think he noticed you were below altitude and amended the clearance vs adding confusion/stress right before the approach. 

4 hours ago, 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 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.

In that case you actually disagree with PTK and agree with me...I've never had to argue so strenuously about having been incorrect in my life ;)

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1 hour ago, DXB said:

My issue is that I was assigned 3000 well before being given the approach clearance, and then was later provided the clearance as simply "cleared for the approach"  without any altitude instruction whatsoever. 

He did, it just came a bit later as you approached the fix but before you where intercepting. But even if he kept you at 3K till the IF,  and just said maintain 3K till established and didn't clear you lower than 3K, he still met his obligation since you had a 6.1 nm leg before the FAF to descend the remaining 1600'. Only if he never gave you a final altitude clearance after the approach clearance could you argue he didn't meet his requirements. 

But I should add, the really important lesson here is not to descend for an approach until 1) specifically cleared for a lower altitude or ii) Cleared for the approach AND established on published segment or final. For example, if told to intercept final (but not cleared) they're specifically telling you that you are not yet allowed to descend on the approach - not till you hear "cleared approach".

In my neck of the woods, such mistakes can be fatal and a guaranteed bust on a checkride - so great point of discussion since it is too common of a mistake.

Edited by kortopates
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29 minutes ago, kortopates said:

He did, it just came a bit later as you approached the fix but before you where intercepting. But even if he kept you at 3K till the IF,  and just said maintain 3K till established and didn't clear you lower than 3K, he still met his obligation since you had a 6.1 nm leg before the FAF to descend the remaining 1600'. Only if he never gave you a final altitude clearance after the approach clearance could you argue he didn't meet his requirements. 

But I should add, the really important lesson here is not to descend for an approach until 1) specifically cleared for a lower altitude or ii) Cleared for the approach AND established on published segment or final. For example, if told to intercept final (but not cleared) they're specifically telling you that you are not yet allowed to descend on the approach - not till you hear "cleared approach".

In my neck of the woods, such mistakes can be fatal and a guaranteed bust on a checkride - so great point of discussion since it is too common of a mistake.

All points well taken - I could have maintained 3000 all the way to the IF and still gotten gear down just before the FAF, or just dropped gear at the IF to lessen the workload.  That may very well have been what the controller had in mind for me to do, although I am not used to getting that on this approach, which I've done many times before. I still contend that the controller maybe should have provided an altitude  at the same time as the approach clearance for an aircraft not on a published segment, since there does seem to be published guidelines for controllers to that effect. Regardless, there's no question I should have maintained 3000 until the IF in absence of different guidance. 

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10 hours 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?

I am not an attorney but I also disagree on this. These “near misses” are tremendously useful and help us learn from our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others. The reason they give you immunity from unintentional violations is because this information is SO important to the safety of aviation that they want to collect as much information as possible without anyone being afraid to report it due to personal risk.

I don’t see how “possible altitude deviation” satisfies this goal and frankly seems like a disservice to everyone else. If that’s what the majority of NASA reports contained then I doubt the FAA would continue to offer any immunity.

I’ve filed a couple of NASA reports for things I did wrong, although I’m pretty sure they weren’t bad enough for anyone else to care (I never heard “possible pilot deviation” or anything like that, but I knew I screwed up). Mine were pretty long and I’m sure I filled in all the blanks. Not only might it help someone else but the self-flagellation made me feel pretty confident I wouldn’t make the same stupid mistake again.

Maybe in an accident where someone got hurt I would consider taking that advice because it might show up to bite me in the a$$ later, but I don’t see any other reason why you would  want to deviate from the intent of the ASRS system.

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Does the FAA have a way to publish NASA reports....”as written” or edited?  Many years ago they used to have a publication to mechanics of service difficulty reports.  These were good, especially to a new mechanic.  You could see trends for both new and old airplanes.  Identify design flaws vs mechanic error.  Find general gotchas before they gotcha.  At some point they stopped publishing.  I think there is a way to access them, but last time I tried it was not easy and I gave up.  Anyway, NASA reports that simply sit in an FAA drop box won’t help the industry as much as allowing access....with the names and info of the guilty removed.

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17 hours 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."

 

image.thumb.png.928429fbad495125bc3490e02d857bd0.png

I agree with your analysis of the event. Yes, when cleared for the approach, you maintain the last assigned altitude (3000) until on a published segment. In your case the segment between KEHSO and PACKS. Whether the controller was required to say "maintain 3000" or not, not a bad idea to do so, so that comment in your report is very worthwhile.

For information, it is a little more expansive than that, though. The published course doesn't have to be on the approach. For example, if KEHSO were on an airway (it isn't) and you were on or instructed to "join V00, cleared for the approach" you would be able to descend to V00's MEA after joining it.

And for those who mentioned it, the MSA is irrelevant, except in an emergency.

Edited by midlifeflyer
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17 minutes ago, takair said:

Does the FAA have a way to publish NASA reports....”as written” or edited?  Many years ago they used to have a publication to mechanics of service difficulty reports.  These were good, especially to a new mechanic.  You could see trends for both new and old airplanes.  Identify design flaws vs mechanic error.  Find general gotchas before they gotcha.  At some point they stopped publishing.  I think there is a way to access them, but last time I tried it was not easy and I gave up.  Anyway, NASA reports that simply sit in an FAA drop box won’t help the industry as much as allowing access....with the names and info of the guilty removed.

Yes. And so do you. I've done searches in the ASRS database. Not as user friendly as Google, but the reports are there and they do get used. There is even a free publication, Callback, we can subscribe to.

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1 hour ago, midlifeflyer said:

I agree with your analysis of the event. Yes, when cleared for the approach, you maintain the last assigned altitude (3000) until on a published segment. In your case the segment between KEHSO and PACKS. Whether the controller was required to say "maintain 3000" or not, not a bad idea to do so, so that comment in your report is very worthwhile.

 For information, it is a little more expansive than that, though. The published course doesn't have to be on the approach. For example, if KEHSO were on an airway (it isn't) and you were on or instructed to "join V00, cleared for the approach" you would be able to descend to V00's MEA after joining it.

 And for those who mentioned it, the MSA is irrelevant, except in an emergency.

+1

This a frequent source of confusion. When cleared for the approach without a new altitude instruction, you can only descend (excluding emergency) if  1) you’re given the altitude clearance to do so, 2) until you’re established on a published segment of the route  (may descend to MEA or per published TAA sector- NOT MSA), on a feeder route, or on the Approach. The FAR/AIM is your best source of information. It never hurts to ask ATC if you have any question. I also would have filed a NASA report- just in case. 

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3 hours ago, takair said:

Does the FAA have a way to publish NASA reports....”as written” or edited?  Many years ago they used to have a publication to mechanics of service difficulty reports.  These were good, especially to a new mechanic.  You could see trends for both new and old airplanes.  Identify design flaws vs mechanic error.  Find general gotchas before they gotcha.  At some point they stopped publishing.  I think there is a way to access them, but last time I tried it was not easy and I gave up.  Anyway, NASA reports that simply sit in an FAA drop box won’t help the industry as much as allowing access....with the names and info of the guilty removed.

You can view them on the ASRS website and search them. You know someone actually reads them because they write a one line summary of each report.

It can be educational to do a search of your airport to know what kinds of screw ups local pilots tend to make. I did that after I filed my recent one about the Cirrus close call and was not surprised to see a bunch of reports of near misses with helicopters and complaints about ATC being obtuse.

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DXB.  For what it's worth, I agree with you.  I think the controller could have done a better job to minimize confusion.  I think if he had said "cleared direct KEHSO, maintain 3000" but did not give you approach clearance that would have helped.  Once you got in close enough to descend to 2000 he could have then given you 2000' and approach clearance.

But you are correct, when given an approach clearance, maintain the last assigned altitude until established on a published segment of the approach.  In your case KEHSO.  The good news is that it is 6.1 NM from KEHSO to PACKS.  That would be plenty of time to descend from 3000' to 1400'.  Unless you have speed brakes you would probably need to lower the gear at KEHSO, but the descent would still be very doable.

And as you said, if we want lower we can always ask for lower.  I frequently do.

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15 hours ago, DXB said:

All points well taken - I could have maintained 3000 all the way to the IF and still gotten gear down just before the FAF, or just dropped gear at the IF to lessen the workload.  That may very well have been what the controller had in mind for me to do, although I am not used to getting that on this approach, which I've done many times before. I still contend that the controller maybe should have provided an altitude  at the same time as the approach clearance for an aircraft not on a published segment, since there does seem to be published guidelines for controllers to that effect. Regardless, there's no question I should have maintained 3000 until the IF in absence of different guidance. 

As a counterargument, there is a very real benefit to minimizing the amount of instructions given at any one time, especially during a busy phase of flight.  The AIM does not say that this information needs to be given explicitly at the same time.  In fact, doing so at the same time would result in the kind of machine-gun instructions that result in errors and miscommunications.  My recent approach I got something like this from TRACON -- "turn right to 190, descend to 6000, maintain best forward speed, two miles outside MOVYE, cleared for the RNAV 21 approach, remain above 6000 until established, contact KSMO tower on 120.1" in about 5 seconds.  I had to ask him to repeat everything after "maintain best forward speed" because I wasn't expecting to hear that.  Wouldn't it make sense to spread that out over a couple different communications?

Granted, it didn't sound like there was a lot of communication necessary going on, so maybe this doesn't apply, but one of the unintended consequences of requiring ATC give you information at a specific time might result in the increased risk of communication errors caused by rapid-fire instructions.

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21 minutes ago, jaylw314 said:

As a counterargument, there is a very real benefit to minimizing the amount of instructions given at any one time, especially during a busy phase of flight.  The AIM does not say that this information needs to be given explicitly at the same time.  In fact, doing so at the same time would result in the kind of machine-gun instructions that result in errors and miscommunications.  My recent approach I got something like this from TRACON -- "turn right to 190, descend to 6000, maintain best forward speed, two miles outside MOVYE, cleared for the RNAV 21 approach, remain above 6000 until established, contact KSMO tower on 120.1" in about 5 seconds.  I had to ask him to repeat everything after "maintain best forward speed" because I wasn't expecting to hear that.  Wouldn't it make sense to spread that out over a couple different communications?

Granted, it didn't sound like there was a lot of communication necessary going on, so maybe this doesn't apply, but one of the unintended consequences of requiring ATC give you information at a specific time might result in the increased risk of communication errors caused by rapid-fire instructions.

As a counter to your counterargument (horse breathing agonally but not quite dead yet ;)), there can be too much info, but there can also be too little. Here is the exact language copied from JO 7110.65X, the bible on ATC phraseology, relevant to this scenario (bold type added by me): 

For aircraft operating on unpublished routes, issue the approach clearance only after the aircraft is:  1. Established on a segment of a published route
or instrument approach procedure, or   2. Assigned an altitude to maintain until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published
route or instrument approach procedure. 
EXAMPLES−
Aircraft is cleared direct LEFTT. The MVA in the area is  3,000 feet, and the aircraft is at 4,000 feet.  “Cross LEFTT at or above three thousand five hundred, cleared RNAV Runway One Eight Approach.”

The MVA in the area is 3,000 feet and Aircraft 2 is at 3,000 feet. “Cleared direct LEFTT direct CENTR, maintain three thousand until CENTR, cleared straight-in RNAV Runway One Eight Approach.”

Yes, nowhere here does it explicitly say that the altitude must be given at the same time, but I do think the  examples  strongly suggest the altitude assignment is not meant to be separated temporally from the approach clearance.  It seems counter-intuitive to me that these standards intended to leave room for the controller  to simply say "cleared for the approach" if the aircraft is already at the altitude where they want it to join the approach.   If one takes a liberal interpretation that the altitude info can be temporally separated, then at least the phrasing linking the altitude assigned to the approach should still be there based on the examples (i.e. "cross X at..." or "maintain X until...").  I never heard any of this - all I had to go on was my last assigned altitude five miles back.  I suspect one purpose of these controller guidelines is to prevent people from making my common mistake, which can be disastrous in some situations. An unintended consequence of controllers usually providing the extra info with the clearance is that I hadn't heard a clearance as cryptic as just "cleared for the approach" off a published route before.  I think I actually got a related question on this topic right on the written test a couple of years ago, but information that we are not forced to use tends to fall out of working memory pretty fast.  

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10 minutes ago, DXB said:

As a counter to your counterargument (horse breathing agonally but not quite dead yet ;))

:D

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1 hour ago, jaylw314 said:

agonally

I love Mooneyspace. My “raised on a dairy farm “ vocabulary is expanding thanks to all you smart people here. 

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5 hours ago, 201er said:

You can view them on the ASRS website and search them. You know someone actually reads them because they write a one line summary of each report.

And I would love to know more about whoever writes those summaries.  I've been reading the ones from my home airport and sometimes the authors can't resist a little editorial comment:

I feel the problem started on the ground when I advised him that we were not cleared on to the runway and that may have been a bit of confusion on our part, but it was better than taking the runway without the clearance. Then when he was trying to input the fix on the FMS and started the over banking situation that added to the confusion. All of these things were a chain of events that was heading us for a disaster, but after we finally leveled at 9,000 the Captain was able to regain his thoughts and the remainder of the flight was uneventful.

I have been flying with this Captain for the past 4.5 years and normally we hand fly the aircraft though 10,000 FT and he always wants to input the FMS fixes himself and, with the Pro-Line 21 in our aircraft if one person starts the input he has to finish it or the other FMS will not take the information. So the pilot not flying will sit in the right seat and select the communication from the Number 2 FMS and Number 1 is doing the navigating. Even when I am in the left seat this Captain will input the navigation from the right side FMS. This adds a lot to my workload trying to figure out what he is doing at the same time as what I am doing. 

This Captain comes from a military background in single seat fighters and sometimes I feel that he takes offense to being corrected on things. I have often heard him comment on how smooth he is at the controls and landing as if he is wanting to berate me and give me a feeling of not being as good a pilot as he is. As I have pointed out to him before this is a crew airplane and we need to act as a crew. But the comment he continues to make is that he is PIC and anything that happens is on him.

Synopsis

A CL30 First Officer used the occasion of an altitude deviation by his Captain to vent his frustrations with the Captain's shortcomings over a period of years during which they had worked together.

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3 hours ago, ZuluZulu said:

And I would love to know more about whoever writes those summaries.  I've been reading the ones from my home airport and sometimes the authors can't resist a little editorial comment:

...

A CL30 First Officer used the occasion of an altitude deviation by his Captain to vent his frustrations with the Captain's shortcomings over a period of years during which they had worked together.

That's pretty funny.

I was looking at the ones from my home drome and am noticing that over the years most of them were written by the controllers about mishaps during shift-change or while training new controllers.   Wasn't expecting that, but it's pretty cool to see the controller perspective.

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If you did descend to 2700 feet with a 3000 foot altitude clearance, then you technically  did not commit a violation. An altitude bust requires at least 300 feet. So there’s that too. 

Edited by jetdriven
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One key piece to remember in situations like this is that approaches are only terps-ed for published segments.... which includes the IAF-IF, but not necessarily any other vector.  In this case, you could expect a descent to 2K... sure... prior to crossing the IAF (and I think I would).  But unless ATC actually issues that descent, you need to maintain your altitude until established on a published segment of the approach.

Edited by M016576

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I know the controller gave you an altitude, but Sorry if I missed it in this thread, but did the controller ever say the words “until established” before saying “cleared rnav approach”??   

Sometimes I’ll get “maintain X feet until the FAF” or “fly heading and altitude until established”

 

Edited by Browncbr1

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22 minutes ago, Browncbr1 said:

I know the controller gave you an altitude, but Sorry if I missed it in this thread, but did the controller ever say the words “until established” before saying “cleared rnav approach”??   

Sometimes I’ll get “maintain X feet until the FAF” or “fly heading and altitude until established”

 

Nope  - just said "cleared for the approach."  All I had to go on was my last assigned altitude 5 miles prior - said nothing about "until established" or "maintain until" or "cross X at"

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2 minutes ago, DXB said:

Nope  - just said "cleared for the approach."  All I had to go on was my last assigned altitude 5 miles prior - said nothing about "until established" or "maintain until" or "cross X at"

Yea, I can see how the phraseology doesn’t seem as expected, begging clarification.  

Someone on here last year posted that he got violated for not flying a procedure turn when cleared for the approach.  Ever since then, I request clear confirmation of straight-in approach clearances.   It’s gotten me in a healthy habit of not accepting anything but brutally clear unambiguous instructions from ATC.   

Thanks for posting this learning experience, glad you didn’t hit any antennas or anything. 

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Thanks for bringing this up.  Its how we all learn from a mistake. 

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