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Descending on a STAR with altitude restrictions

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HI,

 

When you're cleared on to a STAR and cleared to descend (NOT a "Descend Via" clearance) are you cleared to descend to the cleared altitude without respecting the published STAR altitude restrictions? For example: If you are cleared to descend to 5000 feet, but the next restriction in the STAR is at 7000 feet, are you cleared to descend directly to 5000 feet or do you need to fly the restriction of 7000 feet and then descend to 5000 feet? And does it work the same way on a SID?

I've recently had a look into this topic, but all I've seen is mixed answers.  Some say that you should respect the restriction, and some say otherwise. Now, I do understand that this might vary between countries, but I'm specifically asking about how it works in Europe (outside the UK), and especially in Scandinavia (since my homebase is in Scandinavia).

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When you're cleared on to a STAR and cleared to descend (NOT a "Descend Via" clearance) are you cleared to descend to the cleared altitude without respecting the published STAR altitude restrictions?

 

No, as long as you are on the STAR you must comply with altitude restrictions on the STAR unless the Controller tells you otherwise.  If in doubt ask.

 

 

 


And does it work the same way on a SID?

 

Yes. :smile: 

 

blaustern

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The published STAR restrictions are to be followed "unless" ATC give other instructions. So in this case you will descend to 5,000ft. If however ATC gave no instruction or there was a radio fail situation then you would follow the published procedure.

 

The same goes for a SID. ATC will often clear you to an altitude higher than the SID ceiling. If they don't then you fly to the SID ceiling until cleared to a higher altitude or the constraint ends. In most cases with a SID you will attain the SID ceiling long before. So ATC will clear you higher unless there is a traffic constraint.

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No, as long as you are on the STAR you must comply with altitude restrictions on the STAR unless the Controller tells you otherwise. If in doubt ask.

 

By saying "unless the controller tells you otherwise" I assume you mean if the controller clears you to descend to a lower altitude? Since the second reply suggests that I should directly descend to 5000 feet in this case.

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If you are on a published procedure but ATC tell you different, then you should do what ATC said, although because (and admittedly it is extremely rare) ATC have been known to direct traffic into terrain (see the recent EVA Air flight BR15, which cleared a mountain by a mere 500 feet owing to an ATC error), it's still prudent to note anything on an approach or departure chart with regard to obstacle clearance, and in such circumstances make sure they didn't screw up lol.

 

This is especially true in FS, because the ATC in FS is on occasion a bit iffy, even the expensive payware ATC add-ons can get that wrong: Had that earlier today with Pro ATC X sending me pretty damn close to the mountains on approach to the (non ILS) Runway 30 at Dubrovnik after I was initially flying the NERRA approach, but then started getting vectors which took me down to below 3,000 feet near the mountains, and this was in the dark too. So I stopped descending and maintained a visual with the runway lights to ensure I wasn't heading for a hillside. Evidently the AI ATC spotted the danger and ATC then started telling me to climb up to 3,200 after I'd already been cleared for the approach, but since I had a visual with the runway I ignored them and came in anyway lol - not that this is what I'd have done in real life lol since IRL there could have been something stuck on the runway - apparently the landing was a greaser though, according to Air Hauler :-)

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By saying "unless the controller tells you otherwise" I assume you mean if the controller clears you to descend to a lower altitude? Since the second reply suggests that I should directly descend to 5000 feet in this case.

 

Unless the Controller tells me the crossing restrictions are deleted on the STAR during the descent clearance, then I will follow the crossing restrictions until I reach the assigned altitude.

 

blaustern


 

 


you are on a published procedure but ATC tell you different, then you should do what ATC said, although because (and admittedly it is extremely rare) ATC have been known to direct traffic into terrain (see the recent EVA Air flight BR15, which cleared a mountain by a mere 500 feet owing to an ATC error), it's still prudent to note anything on an approach or departure chart with regard to obstacle clearance, and in such circumstances make sure they didn't screw up lol.

 

The changing of the assigned altitude while on a published STAR does NOT delete the crossing restrictions on the STAR unless the Controller specifically deletes those crossing restrictions. 

 

If the pilot is NOT on a published procedure, then comply with the Controller clearance as long as it does not jeopardize the safety of the aircraft.  If unable to comply with the clearance then tell the Controller "UNABLE".  

 

The pilot is ALWAYS responsible for terrain clearance and has the final say.

 

blaustern

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Ok thanks again for the answers.

 

Now, once again I see to get mixed answers, so is there a source anywhere that I can have as a reference? And are the answers based on what is done in Europe or in the US, etc?

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Yes, look up the AIM if you want to know how it is supposed to be done in US airspace. Look up the ICAO Ifr procedures handbook if you want to know how it is supposed to be down in most of the rest of the world. You are getting 'mixed' answers because some people are giving you the US way, and some are giving you the ICAO way. In the US, a 'descend/climb and maintain' instruction implies a deletion of any previously assigned or published altitude restrictions in between. In ICAO jurisdiction, a clearance does not imply removal of those restrictions.

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In the US, unless you are given "Descend VIA" in the clearance, you will follow the altitudes you were cleared. Contrary to popular belief, It's seldom that you are given the "Descend VIA" in my experience. In busy traffic areas in the US, they like to step you down and keep you up. Mainly due to the close proximity of airports with departure and arrival corridors. Every now and then when coming home to the KDCA area, I get the "Descend VIA" clearance. Though STARs are designed to alleviate ATC work load, it seems the sheer volume of traffic in heavy traffic areas require a lot of intervention. I operate out of the DC area and find that on the East coast and West coast, ATC will constantly alter your speeds and course while flying procedures. During Departures, I'm constantly vectored off routing and given speed restrictions. On arrivals, usually I'm vectored off routing and given small altitude changes on the way down. The radios are constantly a blaze and you have to listen up. Only when going into KMIA I get the Descend VIA instruction about 60 to 70 percent of the time. Of course may statements all depend on the time of day.

 

As Kevin stated, you have to consider where you are flying when asking the question. I'm FAA based, but stay abreast of international procedures since I fly international often. We keep a international procedures document along with other publications with country specific procedures. There were some FAA changes where terms/phrase changed and emphasis on procedures were clarified.

 

As Kevin stated, the AIM is a great place to start.

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I was mainly asking how it's done in Europe, so I assume the answer to how it's done in European airspace is that you should always fly the restritctions unless explicitly cancelled.

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