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NTSB to probe Fedex/Southwest close encounter at Austin

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NTSB to probe Fedex/Southwest close encounter at Austin

Old 18th Feb 2023, 10:45
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I know that having the weather below 800-2 automatically initiated enhanced protection at certain American airports, but doesn’t CATIII require an even higher level of protection on the ground?

I ask this because as far as I can tell, the only clearance for a CATIII approach appears to have been given by the FedEx crew to themselves(which I am not sure is legal). By stating that they were doing a CATIII approach, they were stating that if they encountered no visual contact(or almost no visual contact), they would continue with an auto land, basically relying on the autopilot to land and under the belief that no interference to the ILS signal would happen based on CATIII protection. This includes vehicles and perhaps increased aircraft spacing.

If a higher level of protection is required for CATIII than 800-2, how does one ensure that it is being provided. I would think that would be by hearing the controller say that you are cleared for a CATIII ILS(which apparently was not the case).
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 13:06
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Not seen it mentioned in the discussion so far but where I work (UK) the 737NG requirement for engine run up in cold conditions is normally mentioned to ATC by crew when reporting ready.

"Tower XXX123 ready for departure, we will require 30 seconds on the runway"

It's not a formal procedure but 3 based operators of 737s do it often to aid ATC awareness. I believe it came out of regular local ATC/operator/pilot meetings.
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 15:29
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While the exact determination of how close the two aircraft came to each other is the subject of intense scrutiny, it is really only important for the sensational value in my opinion. No matter how small or large the separation truly was, the entire episode was a near disaster that but for providence could have resulted to two incinerated aircraft and extensive loss of life. At the end of the day, this incident should be treated as if the worse case did unfold.... same with the JFK incident. The difference between incidents and accidents is quite minuscule.

Unfortunately, the changes to the system that take place after incidents is often minimal compared to what happens after an accident.

Last edited by Lake1952; 19th Feb 2023 at 00:21.
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 16:58
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Originally Posted by Lake1952
While the exact determination of how close the two aircraft came to each other is the subject of intense scrutiny, it is really only important for the sensational value in my opinion. No matter how small or large the separation truly was, the entire episode was a near disaster...
I respectfully disagree. Understanding the detail here may well lead to increased situational awareness for tower and aircrew. So the next controller will not issue a clearance that tight, the next Fedex pilot will go around earlier and the next SW pilot will reject such a clearance. This is the entire point in accident and incident investigations. And nobody can say "no crash, what's the fuzz".

Last edited by spornrad; 18th Feb 2023 at 17:09.
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 17:21
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Originally Posted by BigDaddyBoxMeal
Not seen it mentioned in the discussion so far but where I work (UK) the 737NG requirement for engine run up in cold conditions is normally mentioned to ATC by crew when reporting ready.

"Tower XXX123 ready for departure, we will require 30 seconds on the runway"

It's not a formal procedure but 3 based operators of 737s do it often to aid ATC awareness. I believe it came out of regular local ATC/operator/pilot meetings.
One should always do that if they are going to need an engine run. Some like to do it on the taxiway though. I was behind a Korean 747 one time and very quickly lots of water spray started kicking up behind him. Fortunately, we had fairly good spacing. And while decent spacing is good anytime, it seems like it is more likely on a ground icing day to encounter someone doing an engine run without advising.
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 17:43
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Originally Posted by BigDaddyBoxMeal
Not seen it mentioned in the discussion so far but where I work (UK) the 737NG requirement for engine run up in cold conditions is normally mentioned to ATC by crew when reporting ready.

"Tower XXX123 ready for departure, we will require 30 seconds on the runway"

It's not a formal procedure but 3 based operators of 737s do it often to aid ATC awareness. I believe it came out of regular local ATC/operator/pilot meetings.
Intersting as I believe not many controllers know this requirement. ( I did not , but it's been a long time since I was Tower qualified ) and it malkes lots of sense mentioning this to ATC. I am not sure our Austin Controller was aware of this.

But there are plenty of those "out of the normal procedures" that controllers are not aware of . For instance recently jumseating on an ANZ A320, out of SYD , I was surprised to discover that after a long ground taxi once it was our turn to line up, we had to decline and wait quite a while until the brakes temp were lower , as on this perticular type of A320 serie the ground idle is too high and you constantly have to brake to keep reasonable speed and if the brake temp goes too high it does not allow take off. After talking to the local SYD and Kiwis controllers, they were all aware of this, but not by beeing told/trained but by (bad) experience. Fine but if the aircraft is goind to a new destination , or being sold to another continent, not sure the local controllers will be advised . Controllers cannot be told every aircraft particularity , but things like that affecting B737s or A320 we should know, as it's almost 50% of the traffic in most airports tofay....

We need more interaction between the two professions ., we used to have , but very difficult to organise nowadays..
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 18:17
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With regard to "exact determination" of physical and temporal dimensions, is it not the case that NTSB investigation reports in fact do strive for precision? And this applies to incidents with serious implications, not just accidents - the Board inquiry after the 2017 Air Canada Fl 759 incident in San Francisco looked at a good number of precise factors (iirc). I don't know about Aircraft Accident Investigation Board reports relating to incidents in other countries, though.

Logically, striving for precision in the physical and timing dimensions makes a great deal of sense imo. After the 2017 KSFO incident, didn't you wonder, '..... if the United pilot had hesitated just a second longer before calling attention to where Air Canada 759 was lined up, would it have been too late, by the laws of physics, to avoid some level of collision?' Plenty of other variables in that incident as well - reaction time of AC crew, for instance. And without pounding further on the dead horse here, there are plenty of variables in the Austin incident which, if changed just slightly, quite plausibly would have led to some level of accident or conflagration. So the quest for precision serves a purpose, I think.

(ATC Watcher - the upcoming ATMWorld conference for ANSPs might be an interesting place for prompting (or even provoking) discussions about how "extra" information about practices involving specific aircraft types could be disseminated more effectively. Certainly CANSO *should* be interested, no?)

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Old 18th Feb 2023, 19:52
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Originally Posted by spornrad
I respectfully disagree. Understanding the detail here may well lead to increased situational awareness for tower and aircrew. So the next controller will not issue a clearance that tight, the next Fedex pilot will go around earlier and the next SW pilot will reject such a clearance. This is the entire point in accident and incident investigations. And nobody can say "no crash, what's the fuzz".
You are making my point...this should be treated like the worse case scenario happened. Because it so easily could have!
And the same attitude should apply to JFK...it easily could have had a different outcome.

The wake up call should be the same whether they missed each other by 50 feet or 500 feet. The gravity of the event is the same.
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 20:13
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Originally Posted by Lake1952
You are making my point...this should be treated like the worse case scenario happened. Because it so easily could have!
And the same attitude should apply to JFK...it easily could have had a different outcome.
Quite so.

"The difference between an accident and a serious incident lies only in the result". (Annex 13, Chapter 1: Definitions)
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 20:30
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Originally Posted by Lake1952
While the exact determination of how close the two aircraft came to each other is the subject of intense scrutiny, it is really only important for the sensational value in my opinion. No matter how small or large the separation truly was, the entire episode was a near disaster that but for providence could have resulted to two incinerated aircraft and extensive loss of life. At the end of the day, this incident should be treated as if the worse case did unfold.... same with the JFK incident. The difference between incidents and accidents is is quite minuscule.

Unfortunately, the changes to the system that take place after incidents is often minimal compared to what happens after an accident.
I agree - the problem isn't how close the planes got but that they had eliminated 99% of the separation they should have had. The same concern should be for taking up 10%, 20%, 30% of that separation.

While separation is typically managed by distance, that model works well under constant velocity conditions. When there is acceleration involved it would be as important to see the separation in seconds. The problem is that it depends on performance models of the aircraft to include run-up delay and basic thrust response. The good news is that this information could be gained solely by ground radar tracking of the aircraft to develop the performance distribution from which one could get the 3-4 sigma limits. Then, any aircraft operating outside those limits could generate an alert that something was severely wrong.

The other might be putting indicators of estimated time to arrival as a billboard display (along with a stop light) to let pilots know when incoming traffic will pass by their hold point. This would be far easier.
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 20:36
  #291 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by WillowRun 6-3
(ATC Watcher - the upcoming ATMWorld conference for ANSPs might be an interesting place for prompting (or even provoking) discussions about how "extra" information about practices involving specific aircraft types could be disseminated more effectively. Certainly CANSO *should* be interested, no?)
I am not sure if I should post this here, as many here know who I am , but lets.say that my faith in CANSO being interested in promoting day to day operational safety in their Airspace world ( the new name) event is rather limited , CANSO is a lobby group and the real purpose of Airspace World is to promote and network the ANSPs with equipment namufactuers and deciders like the EU, SESAR ,EASA, Eurocontrol , the FAA , etc.. in additiuon of making money. The European ANSPs today are primarily interested in using new technologies to reduce costs , safety is more or less taken for granted . They will of course claim high and loud that safety is their first priority, but we all know it is not anymore. Reducing costs is.

For me the best way to close the safety gaps caused by these aircraft specificities woud be more like having Tech pilots and/or aircraft manufacturers giving lectures as part of the controllers refresher training sessions ,and put more controllers in cockpits ( as it was the case before 9/11) and have more pilots visting ATC facilities . Holding joint pilots/controllers events on a regular basis would be another one. But taking staff off duty for all this cost money , and, as I said before, the new managers of both airlines and ANSPs are there to reduce costs, not to add some .

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Old 18th Feb 2023, 21:17
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Originally Posted by punkalouver
I know that having the weather below 800-2 automatically initiated enhanced protection at certain American airports, but doesn’t CATIII require an even higher level of protection on the ground?

I ask this because as far as I can tell, the only clearance for a CATIII approach appears to have been given by the FedEx crew to themselves(which I am not sure is legal). By stating that they were doing a CATIII approach, they were stating that if they encountered no visual contact(or almost no visual contact), they would continue with an auto land, basically relying on the autopilot to land and under the belief that no interference to the ILS signal would happen based on CATIII protection. This includes vehicles and perhaps increased aircraft spacing.

If a higher level of protection is required for CATIII than 800-2, how does one ensure that it is being provided. I would think that would be by hearing the controller say that you are cleared for a CATIII ILS(which apparently was not the case).
Just a regular pilot, so FWIW. The critical area is kept clear for aircraft inside the FAF when below 800/2. Normally that is at least 5NM, but in Austin the FAF is only about 3NM from the treshold, depending on the rwy. I do not know if the Austin controllers are supposed to use 5NM....
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 21:42
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Is the protection not simply a stepped back holding point that is passive and assures non-interference with the ILS system? I don‘t fly lower than CAT 1 (helicopter), but haven‘t heard of a differentiated clearance for CAT 2 or CAT 3. That is down to aircraft certification, crew training and SOPs surely? And it being available, of course.
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Old 18th Feb 2023, 22:12
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Originally Posted by punkalouver
I know that having the weather below 800-2 automatically initiated enhanced protection at certain American airports, but doesn’t CATIII require an even higher level of protection on the ground?

I ask this because as far as I can tell, the only clearance for a CATIII approach appears to have been given by the FedEx crew to themselves(which I am not sure is legal). By stating that they were doing a CATIII approach, they were stating that if they encountered no visual contact(or almost no visual contact), they would continue with an auto land, basically relying on the autopilot to land and under the belief that no interference to the ILS signal would happen based on CATIII protection. This includes vehicles and perhaps increased aircraft spacing.

If a higher level of protection is required for CATIII than 800-2, how does one ensure that it is being provided. I would think that would be by hearing the controller say that you are cleared for a CATIII ILS(which apparently was not the case).
For the 4th or 5th time in this thread I will explain how it works in the U.S. We fly the aircraft, and check the weather/ATIS like pilots do in any other country, if the airport or ATIS is reporting weather that is below CAT 1 mins (200-1/2) then we as pilots will check the approaches available at that airport. If the airport has a CAT2 or CAT3 approach, that is what we’ll fly. No announcements are made. No special procedures are required, except that the ground control and Tower will insure the clear zone is clear. The “ clear zone is the area that insures the ILS/Localizer signal is not interfered with by another aircraft. The ladder symbols on the taxiways are where we are expected to hold short before being cleared for takeoff by Tower. We know this and comply with these procedures. Again, no special announcements needed. Normally if I’m flying an actual CAT2/3 approach, as a reminder to tower, I will ask if the clear zone is clear? And also remind them to turn up the brightness of the approach lighting system. The FedEx pilots call to tower that they were flying a CAT 3 approach was his way of reminding Tower that he was flying a CAT 3 approach, but given the visibility at the time, it was the only legal approach he could fly. Tower and Ground control responsibility's is to make sure nobody taxi’s into the clear zone while another jet is on final. I’m not sure what criteria Tower uses as far as spacing between aircraft while performing CAT 2/3 approaches, that’s his job, and we assume he knows. At some airports, if the vis is very low and they have the proper equipment and lighting systems, they will ANNOUNCE “SMGCS” procedures are in effect. SMGCS procedures concern taxi routings and traffic control lighting, that only affects aircraft on the ground as they taxi to and from the runway.
So in a nutshell, we fly whatever approach available to land, given the visibility conditions. We rely on Tower and Ground control to do their jobs, and we will do ours by safely landing the jet.
This ground controller in Austin screwed up monumentally, by clearing Southwest to takeoff, while FedEx was on short final. The Southwest crew should have known better than to accept the takeoff clearance. Mistakes were made, but it’s not a systemic problem.
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Old 19th Feb 2023, 09:48
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Originally Posted by Chiefttp
For the 4th or 5th time in this thread I will explain how it works in the U.S. We fly the aircraft, and check the weather/ATIS like pilots do in any other country, if the airport or ATIS is reporting weather that is below CAT 1 mins (200-1/2) then we as pilots will check the approaches available at that airport. If the airport has a CAT2 or CAT3 approach, that is what we’ll fly. No announcements are made. No special procedures are required, except that the ground control and Tower will insure the clear zone is clear. The “ clear zone is the area that insures the ILS/Localizer signal is not interfered with by another aircraft. The ladder symbols on the taxiways are where we are expected to hold short before being cleared for takeoff by Tower. We know this and comply with these procedures. Again, no special announcements needed. Normally if I’m flying an actual CAT2/3 approach, as a reminder to tower, I will ask if the clear zone is clear? And also remind them to turn up the brightness of the approach lighting system. The FedEx pilots call to tower that they were flying a CAT 3 approach was his way of reminding Tower that he was flying a CAT 3 approach, but given the visibility at the time, it was the only legal approach he could fly. Tower and Ground control responsibility's is to make sure nobody taxi’s into the clear zone while another jet is on final. I’m not sure what criteria Tower uses as far as spacing between aircraft while performing CAT 2/3 approaches, that’s his job, and we assume he knows. At some airports, if the vis is very low and they have the proper equipment and lighting systems, they will ANNOUNCE “SMGCS” procedures are in effect. SMGCS procedures concern taxi routings and traffic control lighting, that only affects aircraft on the ground as they taxi to and from the runway.
So in a nutshell, we fly whatever approach available to land, given the visibility conditions. We rely on Tower and Ground control to do their jobs, and we will do ours by safely landing the jet.
This ground controller in Austin screwed up monumentally, by clearing Southwest to takeoff, while FedEx was on short final. The Southwest crew should have known better than to accept the takeoff clearance. Mistakes were made, but it’s not a systemic problem.
I may have misunderstood, but from my ATC EU experience, that seems fraught with danger. As I recall it, ATC were responsible for defining whether the airport was operating in CAT 3 conditions, if unable or not ready, then the approach would not be flown. You state that that "no special procedures are required" - not in the air, perhaps, but very much required on the ground, to ensure the appropriate ground protections are in place. There's little point announcing you're flying CAT 3 if there are already obstacles in the way - which may include an aircraft waiting to depart ahead of you, which cannot vacate the area until you're inside the critical portion of flight. The SMGCS procedures you mention seem to be what I would understand as Low Viz Ops: if so, they very much affect the runway, the whole point is protection of the ILS signal.
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Old 19th Feb 2023, 10:14
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Alfaman

I don't think there is any ambiguity: ATC is responsible for the aerodrome environment; pilots are responsible for ensuring that they can attempt the reported minima. As mentioned, up to the crew to fly CAT III, if they are authorized/certified/trained & current/and if available.
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Old 19th Feb 2023, 12:16
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Originally Posted by Torquetalk
Alfaman

I don't think there is any ambiguity: ATC is responsible for the aerodrome environment; pilots are responsible for ensuring that they can attempt the reported minima. As mentioned, up to the crew to fly CAT III, if they are authorized/certified/trained & current/and if available.
Yet it seems aircrew are basing their approach on what they perceive the situation to be, rather than in agreement with ATC that the airport is prepared for them to do so? You can fly a Cat 3 approach in CAVOK if you want, but if the airport isn't operating to those standards you'll not have the protections normally required - a large lump of metal, plastic & glass waiting at the Cat 1 holding points will most likely cause some anomalies in the signal, it certainly would where I operated. In VMC that can be dealt with, but IMC is a very different ball game. As Nordic777 says above, everyone needs to be 100% on the same page. Somewhere there's a hole in the cheese, & that would appear to be one to me.
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Old 19th Feb 2023, 12:36
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Originally Posted by Chiefttp
For the 4th or 5th time in this thread I will explain how it works in the U.S. We fly the aircraft, and check the weather/ATIS like pilots do in any other country, if the airport or ATIS is reporting weather that is below CAT 1 mins (200-1/2) then we as pilots will check the approaches available at that airport. If the airport has a CAT2 or CAT3 approach, that is what we’ll fly. No announcements are made. No special procedures are required, except that the ground control and Tower will insure the clear zone is clear. The “ clear zone is the area that insures the ILS/Localizer signal is not interfered with by another aircraft. The ladder symbols on the taxiways are where we are expected to hold short before being cleared for takeoff by Tower. We know this and comply with these procedures. Again, no special announcements needed. Normally if I’m flying an actual CAT2/3 approach, as a reminder to tower, I will ask if the clear zone is clear? And also remind them to turn up the brightness of the approach lighting system. The FedEx pilots call to tower that they were flying a CAT 3 approach was his way of reminding Tower that he was flying a CAT 3 approach, but given the visibility at the time, it was the only legal approach he could fly. Tower and Ground control responsibility's is to make sure nobody taxi’s into the clear zone while another jet is on final. I’m not sure what criteria Tower uses as far as spacing between aircraft while performing CAT 2/3 approaches, that’s his job, and we assume he knows. At some airports, if the vis is very low and they have the proper equipment and lighting systems, they will ANNOUNCE “SMGCS” procedures are in effect. SMGCS procedures concern taxi routings and traffic control lighting, that only affects aircraft on the ground as they taxi to and from the runway.
So in a nutshell, we fly whatever approach available to land, given the visibility conditions. We rely on Tower and Ground control to do their jobs, and we will do ours by safely landing the jet.
This ground controller in Austin screwed up monumentally, by clearing Southwest to takeoff, while FedEx was on short final. The Southwest crew should have known better than to accept the takeoff clearance. Mistakes were made, but it’s not a systemic problem.
Thanks,

Assuming this is correct, my takeaway from this is that as soon as the weather goes below CAT I limits in the US, pilots allowed to do CATII/III approaches can assume that they have protection and just do their low vis approaches.

But something doesn’t make sense to me. Imagine a busy airport where the weather is VFR and there is a lineup of aircraft for departure at the CAT I hold point on a CAT III capable runway along with some maintenance vehicles inside what would be the protected zone for low vis approaches. A CAT III capable aircraft is on final and have briefed a CAT III approach as a precaution. While on final, a fog bank rolls in and the weather quickly goes to 1/8 mile while several aircraft and vehicles are still in the protected zone.

Based on the quoted response above, the pilots on final do not need a clearance for a CAT II or III approach yet they don’t have protection. In reality, it could take a significant amount of time to ensure that maintenance vehicles and aircraft are clear of the protected zone.

That is why I like an actual clearance for a CAT II or III approach. Otherwise, there actually is ambiguity, despite what some might say.

In my few encounters with CATII/III approaches, which were outside the U S, we were always cleared specifically for such an approach.

Last edited by punkalouver; 19th Feb 2023 at 12:46.
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Old 19th Feb 2023, 12:51
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If you fly an approach above VMC minima, separation is ultimately your responsibility. Below, it is ATCs in controlled airspace.

If there is a CATIII ILS and no NOTAM or other information from ATC, then you can assume it is available. Although if the wx is below what‘s available, ATC should ask the crew‘s intentions anyway.

You also have to assume that everyone knows and does their job, but be aware that threats and errors (inc procedural ignorance) exist and happen: “You can always attempt an approach…” heard that corker a few times.

As megan said some posts back, the FedEx crew were cool as cucumbers and dealt with a near catastrophic situation very professionally. The other crew declined the early turn and should have said “unable“ not “negative“, but hey, the crew flew the aircraft and the day was saved.
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Old 19th Feb 2023, 12:59
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@Chiefttp : very good description , which I hope is not really how it is done in teh US because ,as others just said, you have a big loophole in them . I know there are some differences between FAA and ICAO , and even between some European States and ICAO , but to put things back ito perspective here is an extract from ICAO EUR DOC 013 ( Guidance material fo all Wx ops) on declaring an airport under LVP to allow CAT II and III approaches .
LVP are defined in 3 phases:
1- Preparation Phase: This phase is commenced when deteriorating meteorological conditions reach, or are forecast to reach, specified height of cloud base or ceiling and/or visibility/RVR values. Note.— These triggering values are determined and specified for each aerodrome depending on the flight operations to be supported by LVP, local weather patterns, and considering local factors such as the lead times needed to prepare the aerodrome and to bring the Operations Phase of LVP into force.

2- Operations Phase: This phase must be in force prior to the commencement of any of the specific operations for which LVP are required. The Operations Phase is brought into force only once all preparatory activities are complete. Flight operations requiring LVP must only commence once the LVP are in force.

3- Termination Phase: This phase is established to facilitate a smooth transition back to normal operations.
In a nutshell to perform a CAT III the crew must be qualified, aircrfraft must be certified, airport and ILS also certified, and LVP must be in place. A crew annoucing to perform an ILS CAT III approach on the frequency is not enough . at least not in Europe, and frankly I doubt it is in the US. But waiting to be corrected if it is .
That said I do not know it the Austin ATIS mentioned LVP in place or not , or if, in a previous initial call , the Fedex did ask if they were in place and got an affirmative answer.
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