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Near CFIT because PIC didn't understand FL

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Near CFIT because PIC didn't understand FL

Old 24th Apr 2016, 09:34
  #101 (permalink)  
 
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As per my earlier post, we yet again see the Americans turning this into a peeing contest of how their rules are better and the rest of the world should bow to them. The transition altitude was utterly irrelevant to this incident, as is the debate surrounding it. Two pilots paid insufficient attention to their clearance, and even less to what they set on their MCP. They then levelled off at a stupidly low altitude 2500' below the MSA, showing a stunning lack of awareness of the terrain around them. They were cleared to FL200. They could have changed their altimeter settings at 2000', 5000', 10000', 18000' and still not have had an issue. There is a smokescreen constructed around a lack of attention to clearances, MCP operation and chart details, and evidently there was no briefing or cross checking as both pilots made the error together without any idea about the impending CFIT. Stop turning this into a US vs the world bragging match.
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Old 24th Apr 2016, 10:11
  #102 (permalink)  
 
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Or perhaps this is a North American pilot used to a Transition Level of FL180.
All I said, in different words, was that a pilot who is never used to hearing "Flight Level Zero Two Zero"
Your posts do not make sense to me.

If he is used to a TL of FL180 then he must also hear FL200?
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Old 24th Apr 2016, 15:21
  #103 (permalink)  
 
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Really? The country that gives us classics like "BIGPLANE 123, out of thirty three three for thirty seven...." Or "We descend......... The BIGPLANE 123" is lecturing us about how their system is better?
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Old 24th Apr 2016, 15:25
  #104 (permalink)  
 
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If he is used to a TL of FL180 then he must also hear FL200?
FL200 verbalized as 'flight level two zero zero' is certainly a level that you get in the U.S.

However, it was given to the pilots by the tower controller as 'flight level two hundred', that is not something you will ever hear in a U.S. clearance.

Expressing flight levels in hundreds is a common practice in the UK but it is non-standard in Ireland and most other places in the world as other folks have observed here.

And, Americans are just not good with figuring out flight levels other than round numbered ones above FL180. It's a gotcha and we need to be a lot more careful in my opinion.

As I said earlier in the thread:

Many of my U.S. colleagues seem puzzled when I wince at their calls like 'passing flight level twenty-three point six climbing to flight level two seven zero'.
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 02:11
  #105 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Aluminium shuffler
As per my earlier post, we yet again see the Americans turning this into a peeing contest of how their rules are better and the rest of the world should bow to them. The transition altitude was utterly irrelevant to this incident, as is the debate surrounding it. Two pilots paid insufficient attention to their clearance, and even less to what they set on their MCP. They then levelled off at a stupidly low altitude 2500' below the MSA, showing a stunning lack of awareness of the terrain around them. They were cleared to FL200. They could have changed their altimeter settings at 2000', 5000', 10000', 18000' and still not have had an issue. There is a smokescreen constructed around a lack of attention to clearances, MCP operation and chart details, and evidently there was no briefing or cross checking as both pilots made the error together without any idea about the impending CFIT. Stop turning this into a US vs the world bragging match.

The US has more than double the number of a/c than the rest of the world COMBINED. Just saying....
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 02:14
  #106 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by atpcliff
I fly all over and never heard "Flight Level Two Hundred" (or three hundred). That would be a bit confusing.

I also don't like the "low" flight levels. I think Transition Altitude and/or Level in Dar Es Salam, Tanzania is 2,500'.
That's awesome when you're descending to hold on the ils for 05, waiting for a caravan from Zanzibar and have wx between you and the airport.
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 06:29
  #107 (permalink)  
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The US has more than double the number of a/c than the rest of the world COMBINED
True and the FAA always resisted changes to ICAO based on that argument. The problem is that for many years only a tiny proportion of those aircraft were travelling outside the continental US , but now things are changing , and when they do go outside , it causes problems. Also the number of foreign aircraft /pilots entering continental US airspace is increasing. Time to wake up, and to be fair I think the FAA do realize they have an issue now,and plan to tackle it. At this this is what I hear.
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 08:23
  #108 (permalink)  
 
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It has been interesting reading this debate, it reminds me of many I have had in the past, both within the UK, within Europe and within the USA. Clearly, as other have said, the pilots involved should have paid much closer attention to their ATC clearance. If there is one thing you DON'T do, it is to fly below your MSA.

I have long advocated a higher TA in Europe (18,000ft to harmonise with the USA and above Mt Blanc would be a good compromise) not only because of the harmonisation issue but, even more important, to raise it to an altitude where things are less busy. Others on this thread have mentioned the complicated SIDs out of Heathrow - turn here, turn there, level out until past xxx, then climb to yyy, change frequency to zzz, etc, etc. I have always thought to change altimeter setting in the middle of all this is only to invite yet another mistake.

And this brings me round to the subject of standardised terminology. This is not a case of the USA versus Europe or anywhere else in the world for that matter. When I used to fly many years ago, in different parts of the world, different phrases were used to clear aircraft to line up and then take-off (there are others too). And incidents were caused by such things. If we are really interested in safety we should work towards removing as many as possible of these differences.

It is not a case of just saying, 'pilots should take more care' or from a state ANSP's point of view, 'this system is best for our country'. However, professional a person may be, they are human and, as we all now, humans make mistakes.

So, please let us remove yet one more possibility for error and thus make the total system safer.
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 12:15
  #109 (permalink)  
 
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Many of my U.S. colleagues seem puzzled when I wince at their calls like 'passing flight level twenty-three point six climbing to flight level two seven zero'
Maybe they say it that way because Angels without Cherubs is clearer. Don't start on Devils. 😏

Regarding transition alt; I always believed it was above the highest MSA. I never understood the need in the UK for different TAs. How about a global TA?
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 12:29
  #110 (permalink)  
 
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How about a global TA?
Even better how about GLOBAL REGULATIONS full stop
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 13:54
  #111 (permalink)  
 
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Even better how about GLOBAL REGULATIONS full stop
Good grief! Please NO - I have enough trouble keeping up with all the EASA nonsense.

Don't get me wrong I'm not against better standardisation but you're never going to have a one size fits all. Part of pilot training and operation is management of altimeters etc.

Perhaps we should recall that all of us in the UK now have to suffer the imposition of having to say "Hectopascals" whenever the pressure is 999 or less because a couple of US operated aircraft confused inches with millibars (as they were then) and ended up with at least one potential CFIT at Birmingham (UK). We also have to suffer the nanny State stuff on the NOTAMs when the pressure is low reminding pilots how to set their altimeters.

Be careful when you fix one problem that you don't generate a load more.

When in Rome do as the Romans.

Last edited by fireflybob; 25th Apr 2016 at 21:19.
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 13:59
  #112 (permalink)  
 
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Even better how about GLOBAL REGULATIONS full stop
And deprive many paper-shufflers and chair-warmers of their hard-earned salary?
No no, we can't have that!
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 14:32
  #113 (permalink)  
 
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fireflybob,
I agree - I would prefer more harmonisation, not standard Global Regulations!!
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 16:32
  #114 (permalink)  
 
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May be this pilot needs a quadruple channel computer to handle his 'levelling off'. By the way what is a 'highly professional easy mistake' ?

Hiya mayam13,


My point to that comment was that a mistake, in of itself, does not imply unprofessionalism. Any mistake in the right circumstances can be viewed as easy one to make. What is akin to negligence one day can be dismissed the next depending upon the conditions leading up to the mistake. That's why I don't like throwing people under the bus because I was not there and, while I can put myself in their shoes, I don't know what else was going on. I guess my attitude comes from spending way too much time training in airplanes and simulators are coming to realize there are far more "average" pilots, like me, than there are "natural born" pilots.


If he is used to a TL of FL180 then he must also hear FL200?

Icarus2001,


I'll give you that over the course of my posts I may have had a typo or two. I'm not a fan of editing my posts because they made sense at the time.


I meant to say "Flight Level Two Hundred." You're right, they will have heard, and been to, FL200 a lot, but if you never hear it spoken a certain way, then you're bound to make a mistake if you don't ask for clarification. That failure to ask for clarification was a big mistake on their part, but I think we've all been there before.
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 17:39
  #115 (permalink)  
 
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In airline operations, for almost as long as I can remember now, it has been standard practice for both crew to listen to the clearance as it is received. On so many occasions that I have lost count of, this has resulted in one or other of us querying some aspect of that clearance, whether it is the name (foreign accent and pronunciation) altitude/level, or squawk; the ambiguity has been caught, and resolved.

In corporate operations, I frequently had to 'push' the F/O to clarify the clearance after it had already been received, because he had taken the clearance on his own. Again, this frequently resolved some ambiguity that existed. More than once, the repeated clearance bore no resemblance to the first version.
Too often, even now, clearances issued during push or taxi are recorded when there are other distractions.

Not so very long ago, I was working in North America. The issue of lower transition levels/altitudes frequently caused issue for local crews when around the Caribbean, where the levels are frequently reminiscent of those in Europe.

Standardisation could benefit more areas of operations than just the transition altitude. However, that is unlikely to happen in the short term. Better briefings from companies for crews operating outside of their usual hunting ground would help relieve a great many problems.
That works both ways. You shouldn't go swanning off to the US/Canada without thinking about regional differences and expectations, any more than North American crews should simply arrive in London air space, to suddenly be confronted with strange hitherto unheard of clearances. A frequently heard query over London being a US major querying a level such as descend to FL7-0 as FL7000feet? Crews from both sides of the pond are frequently getting it wrong. Often to comedic effect, until the enormity of the error becomes apparent.

One area frequently mentioned in the previous postings, here, is the clearing up of confusion on the ground. A big problem can often be not realising that there is any confusion until later. That smacks of not briefing properly. I'm not talking about laboriously briefing every single bit of a departure; as a senior training captain once said to me- 'I can read the bloody plate, tell me about the bit that isn't written there'.

Being cleared to quite a high initial flight level on a departure may suddenly seem strange when the norm has been initial levels in the single thousands of feet altitudes. A badly scrawled clearance, taken in isolation, inadequately briefed and understood (I said something, he heard something, but was it the same something?)

The traps are all there, and none of us are immune.
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Old 25th Apr 2016, 20:15
  #116 (permalink)  
 
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In relation to ' Global standardisation and harmonisation', RTF Phraseology looks like a good place to start.
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Old 26th Apr 2016, 02:25
  #117 (permalink)  
 
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As a Yank, I'll be the first to admit the crew in this case made the primary error. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do - however weird." Not dead sure you understand the clearance? STOP - and get it clarified before you take off.

I'm not really thrilled about "fly heading two hundred" or "flight level two hundred" - smacks of contacting aircraft G-GEDY as "Geddy" instead of "Golf Echo Delta Yankee."

But in some places we're already on that path - "United two four six", or "United two forty-six."
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Old 26th Apr 2016, 09:50
  #118 (permalink)  
 
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Lancelot has the key issue diagnosed. It is the gash nature of most GA pilots that caused this incident. Transition altitude and RT had absolutely nothing to do with it. They paid no attention to the clearance, the charts or terrain and just blasted off in a cavalier fashion. Airline pilots operating from airports with a lot of GA see this sort of crap daily - I saw a biz jet out of a London airport declare an emergency as he got airborne, bringing all departures in the London TMA to a halt for 30 minutes, because of an "FMS malfunction". He was only positioning to Farnborough, FFS! He clearly got airborne with the FMS misset or not set at all, with no raw data back ups and no mental preparation for the SID. London had to bring in the whole "hectopascal" read back because of GA pilots assuming everything is done in inches all over. I would regularly see the biz jets nearly run off the end, and one time actually do so, landing on wet runways with the thrust up to get a greaser.

That is the issue here. Not US/Europe, not transition levels, not RT. GA attitudes.
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Old 26th Apr 2016, 14:07
  #119 (permalink)  
 
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Yep. Sure, different regional terminology can require a bit of care, but any pilot operating in unfamiliar parts should be conscientious enough to prepare beforehand, intelligent enough to work out obvious things (like fl2-0-0 being the same as fl200, I mean write it down, what does it look like?) and humble enough to ask if unsure. If that isn't you, then you're in the wrong job.
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Old 26th Apr 2016, 18:30
  #120 (permalink)  
 
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My humble opinion is that the root of this was a poor pre-flight briefing.

I recall once flying out of Mumbai, the ground controller kept saying number one at the end of the taxi routing (3 times maybe, I read it back each time). Both the captain and I shrugged it off as it being a silly Indian ATC custom. Until we started approaching november one (the hold short as it was). Yes, our mistake being not fully briefing the entire expected taxi routing.

So being in a foreign place and "when in Rome" is my best guess as to what happened. That being said, the people saying that being American with a TA/L of FL180 so therefore hearing flight level two hundred was new to them.. even as a fairly young F/O I find it hard to mix up two hundred and zero two zero or two zero zero.

It seems like a chain of errors that started with a poor briefing regarding the TA and MSA.
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