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A Strong Case for a Mandatory P1 for Pilots


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Wait for what? I'm advocating making it mandatory now as a 3-6 month trial and checking after 3-6 months to see if the community feels it's having the intended effect.

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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I just want to bring us back to the original discussion of mandatory P1 training.

 

Recently (this week) myself and 2 other instructors were sitting on team speak having an ad-hock discussion about controller training.

 

Via our theory training and exam system we went back and had a look at some students that are due to have some mentoring and [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essments, upon review of the reports produced by the website we used, we saw that a number of students had not read all the pages for the S2 training (note that we do combined DEL/GND/TWR as one [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essment) in the worst case, one member had read 9 of the 47 pages, and had not logged into the system for over a month and is due for mentoring this week, these students had also had multiple exam attempts before finally p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ing, VATSIM says we need to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] a student when they reach 80%, it doesn't say anything about how many attempts a person may have.

 

A review of the incorrect answers showed that they were consistent with the pages that had not been studied.

 

So, how do we stop the same thing happening with mandatory P1, where by a new member attempts the exam, and eventually, has multiple go's, to the point where by their guesses eventually result in a p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]?

 

What exactly have the students learned if thy haven't read what we want them to read?

 

The students above will most likely fail their practical exam, and that will keep them from controlling, but there is not the same for pilots.

 

Then why not track what they've done and make sure they've finished everything before letting them take the exams? No, it's not impossible - it's being done right now. The P1 program of a major VA I'm a member of uses the Moodle platform to track how many instructional videos (it's a video-based course) you've completed (and no, you can't trick the system - it tracks the video itself). Also, a cooldown timer could be implemented - the entry exam of the same VA I mentioned allows you to take a retest after 48 hours, which is a good amount of time to make sure any prospective don't just keep trying to guess the answers over and over again.

 

Don't get me wrong, we will absolutely benefit from a better codec, but it's not a panacea. And I'm in the camp where we don't want a crystal-clear codec ... that's just not realistic. Or if we do use a crystal-clear codec, we maintain the option to use a band p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] filter, and maybe introduce a little radio noise, so that it is realistic.

 

I agree 100% when you watch Twitch and listen to people on Pilot Edge, it's SO clear it's totally unrealistic, the controller sounds like they are whispering in your ear. I fly commercially IRL and trust me there are a lot of unclear radio transmissions from both ATC and other pilots; sometimes you just grin and bare it until the next hand off. Sure most sound very good but NOT PilotEdge clear (note: I'm not dissing PilotEdge as their controllers are very good, just it's 'too' clear).

 

I think VATSIM would benefit most with a new 'crystal-clear' codec with an optional radio distortion effect so you can get the best of both worlds depending on your own preference. The issue with the current codec is that it is absolutely HORRIBLE - it slurs the good transmissions and makes an absolute mess of the bad ones. If you listen to videos of real-life ATC transmissions, both from sites such as LiveATC as well as from videos from the cockpit (i.e. audio straight from the aircraft's radios), they're quite clear with only a little bit of fuzziness/distortion. From what I've seen, the current codec sounds more like HF than VHF (speaking of which, we could retain it for a dedicated HF simulation, but that's another topic for later).

 

Wait for what? I'm advocating making it mandatory now as a 3-6 month trial and checking after 3-6 months to see if the community feels it's having the intended effect.

 

Very much agreed, although I think some details would have to be worked out before we can put something in place...

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While mandatory P1 training may well not eliminate ALL of the trolls and ALL of the skaters, if it improved the situation by any measure at all, it would still be a step in the right direction. I'd love to see us try it and re-evaluate in 3-6 months. Crawl before you walk, walk before you run....

Agree.

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Who would join me to develop an optional ground school and flying school application to EASA standards

 

This can be achieved without any manual involvement by VATSIM staff.

 

At least this could then show who had p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ed out of the schools and who had not, and would not interfere with current P1, etc processes.

Cheers, Richard

You are the music, until the music stops. T.S.Eliot
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Tom, you make a good case, but I'd like to respond from the perspective of a trainee pilot and a newcomer to VATSIM.

 

I have the P1 certification, however it does in no way prevent any of the issues you have mentioned. I am still often flustered and confused by the entire collection of jargoned speech, mountains of charts and other paperwork that can literally make no sense for a newbie in a new airspace at all; then there is the wide range of different tech issues and aircraft dynamics that can all conspire at the worst times to throw the whole thing off even further.

 

As for:

Inability to understand ATC instructions: The P1 certification does not help you with that at all. Most of the basic stuff is rarely even spoken on the ATC. What is often called for requires detailed knowledge of SIDS STARS RUNWAY TAXI ROUTES departures and arrivals and if you are in a cessna or a beechcraft training plane that is all way too confusing - untill you have gained enough experience to know what the heck is going on in the first place.

 

Not filing valid flight plans: Ha! I have spent hours checking ATIS, checking departure and arrival routes, Carefully plotting

VOR's and waypoints according to those blastedcharts, but to this day I have NEVER had a prefiled flight plan simply accepted. Nope, I have had to reprogram every single flight plan (and sometimes three different times) right there and then. Makes me totally wonder what the point of the flight plan is before getting whoever to give it to me on departure. AND even when I think yep, I've got it, ATC wants me to change it.

 

Failure to use charts: Again, unless you are supremely confident and knowledgeable about the airspace you are in - and I mean by experience; you have no way of knowing what to plan for if ATC rejects your flight plan and asks you to fly some other route that has you wasting time trying to figure out. Especially at some of the bigger airports that have dozens of departure and arrival routes- I have a floor littered with charts which all become a blur when you are trying to reprogram your flight computer at the last minute in spite of having a flight plan that has already taken an hour to compile.

 

Ignoring ATIS: How anyone can plan a flight without knowing which way everything is pointing at the origin and arrival ends is beyond me, so I'll skip that and say it doesn't matter if your FP is rejected, you'll be given instructions when required.

 

Incorrect runway usage: New airports are challenging for anyone. I spend hours just taxiing about the place when ever I plan to use a new airport and even then trying to understand the taxiing directions from ATC can be confusing if your not sure where you are in the first place.

 

Misuse of UNICOM: I over use UNICOM. What I hate it realising others are not replying themselves. Then I figured out that most people type very different information than what they speak. The two are almost completely different

 

Poor radio telephony and etiquette: Oh come on, Tom, this is difficult especially if you are not quite sure what to say so that you don't sound foolish. I blunder all the time. And you know what? I have heard a vast array of different speech styles that I struggle to understand at times, not to mention competing communications where several people are talking at the same time.

 

Then there is the question of different tech: Some microphones are so garbled as to render the use of them meaningless. Then there are all the plugins, add ons, and what not that could have everyone playing with different support tech that masks their actual abilities. What if that goes south? I had Xmappper pros autopilot do the strangest of things to my aircraft and while I had absolutely no control over it I'm sure the ATC's at the time were cringing as to my abilities.

 

How about new aircraft 'ghosts in the machine'? I have some expensive aircraft that just don't behave well for some reason at times doing the worst of things at the worst possible moments. Take for instance the other day, after hours (yes, hours) of planning, chart checking, re-planning, and finally taxiing, my airplane just decided to shoot sideways and upside down the moment I took the parking breaks off. HA! Point is there are lots of things a newcomer, even one with a P1, needs to deal with that veterans like yourself need to be mindful of. Remember your own learning curve and be patient because I guarantee it is infinitely more frustrating for us that it ever will be for you. Not to mention disheartening at times.

 

One final point: How about getting conflicting ATC instruction after being handed off? I had someone turn me on a course to avoid traffic and then forgot about me untill I offended the next ATC whose airspace I wandered into. Not fair. Again the point of a flight plan is ???? Like I said I have never had a flight plan flown that wasn't twisted and changed by a dozen other people. And finally to the voice who said to me "congratulations that was the worst flight from KSAN to KLAX I have ever seen" I thank you and ask you to jump on your head. I am new, I have a P1, I make countless mistakes all the time, but I am learning, and I am getting better, and that is the entire point is it not?

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Dieter, as far as the controller who said "congratulations that was the worst flight from KSAN to KLAX I have ever seen"

 

if that happens again in the future, please do take down the controllers name and ID, and if done on text, provide a screenshot of the text.

 

forward that information to the respective region (VATUSA in this case) as well as VP Supervisors, and appropriate ARTCC managers.

 

thats not acceptable. having dealt with similar users in the past, I had no issue getting the VATSIM staff involved in those situations to resolve those issues. please do the same. sorry you had to encounter one of those individuals. network has worked hard to get rid of those types of attitudes, but a few still slip through. really is no need for those types of remarks to put down users, like the old saying goes, some things are better left unsaid

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Thanks Ernesto,

 

I appreciate it. But the guy was right, it was a terrible flight, I made a dozen mistakes, then my autopilot died about 2 meters off the runway dropping my plane like a stone leaving me with one engine and a bent steering wheel. I was hobbling off the runway (ashamed and embarr[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ed) when I heard that. I couldn't even respond because both hands were full trying to controll my now crippled plane. Needless to say it hurt, but it was also true - so what to do? Just smile and take it with a grain of sugar.

 

I appreciate your kindness though.

 

Dieter

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PS: I don't think it was a controller... could have been another pilot... and to be fair, the radio wasn't clear and I may have heard it wrong. Could have been a pilot saying "Thanks that was the best flight from KSAN to KLAX I have ever seen/had" ... remember I am bouncing wildly off the runway at this point and may have heard things differently. Because I don't know - for sure -, I am going to err on the side of reasonable doubt and put it down to yet another of my errors. I thank the controllers who did indeed put up with me - and my "walzing M'beechcraft" lol

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happens to all of us i dont know a single pilot, virtually or even in the real world thats perfect. doesnt exist

 

i still have issues from time to time and ive got thousands of hours online in all types of aircraft. heck i had a gear up landing the other day which ended hilariously tumbling like a spinning top lol just gotta laugh and go for the next one. nobody dies online

 

there is a saying in aviation

 

"You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck"

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  • Board of Governors
forward that information to the respective region (VATUSA in this case) as well as VP Supervisors, and appropriate ARTCC managers.

Ernesto, while I agree with just about everything you said, there's no need to send this information to the VATSIM Board of Governors!

 

One of the most effective principles of problem resolution is to deal with issues at the lowest possible level. In this case, notifying the facility leadership via a feedback form is appropriate. In a case where a facility does not have a feedback form, an email to the facility staff is appropriate. Optionally, copy the Division on that email so they can be aware and monitor trends, and follow up as appropriate.

 

The VP Sups is inappropriate in that case anyway, as the issue was with a controller, not a Sup.

 

Your suggestion is tantamount to being ticked off for getting an unjust parking ticket in your hometown, and sending a complaint to the President of the US (talking the position, not bringing politics into the discussion!). Much better, more appropriate and more effective to air the complaint at the local level.

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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actually VP Supervisors handles more then just issues with supervisors, the job also includes handling issues with both pilots and controllers after it has occurred (if a supervisor wasnt available at the time).

 

however my point is to simply include them as a copy, not that they have to get involved right away, unless the situation calls for it. some situations are out of local staff control. had one issue many years ago with a controller who threw a major fit over the radio, that one required local and VP attention. so again, if the situation calls for it, yes include them

 

id agree if you were contacting VATGOV1, definitely dont need to email him with such an issue, unless the chain below fails at each step and it actually comes to that, not likely. VP Sups however is the one you can include in such a case when needed.

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  • Board of Governors

Ernesto, the new procedure for reporting issues with docomeentation after the fact is not to email VP SUP, now, please email [email protected] so that a ticket may be opened.

Nick
Vice President - Supervisors
VATSIM Board of Governors

Contact the Supervisor Team | Could you be a Supervisor?

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Unless otherwise stated, opinions are my own and not representative of the official opinion of the VATSIM Board of Governors

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the job also includes handling issues with both pilots and controllers after it has occurred (if a supervisor wasnt available at the time). . .

I'd agree with Don in this situation. By CC'ing VATGOV you are essentially escalating the situation past the ARTCC, past the Division, past the Region, and all the way up to the highest level of command. Although the VP, SUP is in charge of supervising and overseeing post-factum investigations, he does not handle all of them - any Supervisor or Senior Supervisor can pick-up a post-factum investigation.

 

With that said, contacting the facility staff and CC'ing the Division Staff is appropriate in this situation. Then, both local disciplinary action can take place (at the ARTCC) and someone like Don (who is a SUP) at the Division level can initiate (or forward to another Supervisor for them to handle) a post-factum investigation, as appropriate.

 

I don't mean to speak for any of the players involved. However, if the VP, SUP (or any VATGOV position) were CC'd in every local conflict, i'd imagine his emails would be flooded. Chain of command is important.

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"You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck"

 

I like that....

 

As for mistakes... well today's flight went fine... untill.....

 

Got the FP done, quickly, no probs. taxied and took off KSAN - again, no issues... then

 

The charts say say one thing but ATC says another - who do I listen too? I guess I listen to the ATC. But they have me flying off course to my Nav computer and the directions in the charts.

 

A little while later I'm back on course heading direct to OCN (having turned early and received 'a note' from ATC) handed off from departure to centre now I'm expecting they know I'm planning to turn direct to SLI from OCN, but I'm not sure so I ask. Now I'm reminded of my FP which is set for that course, and that the ask wasn't required. HUH? so why was it not ok to fly my FP in the first case but also not ok to ask in the second?... little while latter I'm on direct to SLI VOR...

 

Handed off again to approach (A) confirmed my intention for a 24R approach KLAX, got clearance for a visual 24R, so I proceed to MERCE as filed. Now the charts say I need to be below 4000 between SLI and MERCE, so I start heading down to 4000 on direct course to MERCE. ATC tells me off for not being cleared for the 4000 and sends me back up to 6000 and at the same time a turn to 250 that has me coming in way too sharp for the runway I selected. After asking for clarification I'm now told to swing hard right and quickly drop to 2300. Now had I just been left to the original filed approach everything would have been fine and smooth, but no, I had to jump through ATC's hoops for a reason I'm still not entirely clear. But I don't have a full picture of the airspace around me as does ATC so I kind of just jump when told.

 

Handed off to approach (B) who clears me for a sharp 25L. erm correction ATC want 24R... hello???? are the ATC's communicating with each other? or is everyone doing their own thing? OK, so now I'm way off the course that would bring me in straight. Now I'm flying cross traffic with a useless nav computer and a totally off GS. ATC says something, I respond, ATC doesn't understand, I repeat, ATC types something and asks me to text. HUH? I'm trying to get back on a decent approach so how on G_d's good green earth am I supposed to type???? I guess my variety of English was beyond the intelligibility of the ATC - By the chuckles no one else seemed to have a problem. Ok, so now I quickly start to type.... but OH NO!!!!! I forgot to hit the text key first; so while I think I'm typing I'm actually turning half a dozen critical systems off and another 6 on again totally 'lunch-ing' my approach, displays and all my instruments (including the xmapper pro ipad controlled autopilot) leaving me dangerously low, with no instruments, and unresponsive controls.... ahhhh. I tell ATC I'm now in trouble and flying blind... but ATC "huh? sorry I don't understand", "huh? Not clear", "Huh? text me...", I try shouting, ATC texts shouting doesn't help lol, I manage a quick lol, before shutting down the ipad (to get control) - monkey fingering my controls to get straight, level, and back on approach for a fast sweaty landing.

 

Point being that entire exchange made me realise that it is no wonder people don't prefer to actually speak, when ATC can't understand other varieties of English that are not American. Secondly typing is completely useless at certain critical moments. So the time between ATC and pilot response could occur out of sync with a maneuver that may or may not be what either party actually wants. Finally, how can I ask ATC to leave me be on the approach filed if there is no traffic, clear airspace, and my approach is consistent with the charts for such an approach/landing? Its little wonder some people prefer to disconnect and then reconnect after the fact.

 

Thanks for listening to these tales from a beginner P1 pilot (holding two bags lol) Am learning and growing and developing my own sense-ibility of the flying environment. I just hope I'm not learning bad habits - which I see can be easy to do.

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ATC instruction always trumps whats filed or whats on a SID/STAR.

 

without knowing which procedure, there are two types (or two common ones ill say), one is an RNAV which often takes you from the runway/to the runway, to/from the waypoint. this one normally doesnt require any ATC intervention, you are cleared for it, fly it. BUT, if on departure for example ATC happens to give you a heading or another climb restriction, which isnt part of the procedure, that controller is overriding the previous clearance, stick to the instruction from the controller. when you check in with the following controller, include that with your check-in "ABC Approach, N12345 p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ing 1000 for 5000 heading 090" this is a quick hint to the controller you are no longer on the SID (for example) and will require further instruction. theyll work you from there and at some point they "should" put you back onto the SID or vector you towards a waypoint on your filed route and told to continue on course, once they do that, continue as filed/cleared.

 

Second type of procedure will note on the chart "vectors to" or have some arrows with different heading, etc.. but never actually give you a route to the first waypoint on the procedure, this one requires vectors to that point, in which case youll be given instructions accordingly, at some point theyll send you direct to the waypoint and told to continue as filed. youll fly the rest as per the chart from there.

 

now what I have also been noticing online is some student controllers (they are learning just as you are remember) might clear you on an RNAV SID for departure but then when you go to takeoff give you something else for no other reason then they are reading from a script. can add a little workload to the pilot after you've already prepped for one thing and now changing, but once you get used to it, its fairly simple. for example if they say fly the RNAV, im hitting LNAV right after departure (if equipped), otherwise either im flying it manually or using heading hold. thats just me, but it works lol. same if they say "climb via SID" im htting VNAV (if equipped) making sure i have the altitude selected to any constraints.

 

as far as typing and flying, not easy, but with practice, its a gained skill ive been doing it forever. can pretty much type one handed lol the key with typing as well is you do not need to type full sentences to get your message out unless its required. if you are asking them something, obviously you will need to type a bit more. but if replying to an instruction or something, keep it short and simple. if cleared to land for example, a quick "ctl 09" = cleared to land runway 09, anyone can quickly understand it. "req IFR ABCD", "tl 090", etc.. etc.. if you are on A/P its obviously much easier to manage

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the charts say I need to be below 4000 between SLI and MERCE, so I start heading down to 4000 on direct course to MERCE. ATC tells me off for not being cleared for the 4000 and sends me back up to 6000

Just a guess, but you might be confusing restrictions for minimums. An altitude restriction is listed by the waypoint name with a bar above and/or below it. The Minimum Enroute for each segment is listed sideways along the solid line. Either is trumped by an [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned altitude from ATC.

 

If you want some one-on-one coaching, come over to VATSTAR.com and book a "General Practice Flight" with one of our Instructors. They can listen and observe, and help you understand ATC's instructions & also follow along on the departure & arrival charts. Learning by trial-and-error is effective but sometimes frustrating; we can point out any issues we see & hear and help you fill in some of those knowledge gaps a little more efficiently.

Cheers,

-R.

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Thanks Robert,

 

I have discovered that you are correct. I misread the chart thinking the number with the line was the restriction. I have received numerous extremely valuable PM and E-mail help from Mike Sweeney (thanks again) on that and a whole range of other 'errors'. Taken all together I can honestly say that I have learned more from that one mistake riddled flight than I did from the last few weeks of reading and preparing. Thank you all so very much!

 

On a side note, I'm already a vatstar member (which is where I got my P1 incidentally) and have signed up for the P2 written with Aidan Stevens next week on the 28th. If I p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] that I will be doing the test/practice flight before my practical test, maybe even a few of them. SO thanks again for the advice.

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I have learned more from that one mistake riddled flight than I did from the last few weeks {...}

Yep, like I said, trial-and-error is effective yet frustrating.

I'm already a vatstar member (which is where I got my P1 incidentally) and have signed up for the P2 written {...}

Ah! So you are. Well, I'm glad we can be of service. I think you'll find that the P2 really does a lot more for procedural stuff than the P1, which is more about being a good VATSIM citizen. Many of the pilots that have earned ratings from us already knew what they were doing and just needed validation of that knowledge; the ones we've actually helped learn and grow as virtual pilots are the real rewarding ones.

 

And to bring it back to the original topic -- while I understand completely that the P1 fell way short of teaching you what you need to know to fly on the network, it's a good framework of some basic rules, guidelines, and expectations. It makes it clear what is and is not allowed on the network. I certainly advocate for making it mandatory, and even moreso for Jim Hurst's idea of allowing pilots a 60-day (or whatever) "trial period" first; the concepts contained therein will probably make much more sense after that "taste." I don't for a second believe it will solve all of the problems, but, it is a step in the right direction if you ask me.

Cheers,

-R.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I certainly advocate for making it mandatory, and even moreso for Jim Hurst's idea of allowing pilots a 60-day (or whatever) "trial period" first; the concepts contained therein will probably make much more sense after that "taste." I don't for a second believe it will solve all of the problems, but, it is a step in the right direction if you ask me.

 

I made a similar proposition some pages ago.. if there will be any kind of poll among members on whether to give a "trial period" before requiring P1 as mandatory for log in I will be with you!

What do we have to do to transform the idea to a concrete proposition to Vatsim Governors?

Lorenzo Stobbione

P1 Rating - VATSIM Online Pilot

P2 Rating - VATSIM Flight Fundamentals

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a poll wont do you any good, they dont make decisions based on polls.

 

if you want to introduce something, the proper way is to write a detailed proposal and submit it to the vatgovs. the only way youll get something in for them to read through and possibly introduce it into a staff vote at some point.

 

A poll would be able to judge the support in the community for such a measure though, which could be mentioned in such a proposal to possibly sway the BoG (after all, any leadership is accountable to its membership).

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A forum poll would represent an extreme minority of VATSIM users and won't move me at all.

 

Pilot training is discussed all the time within the BoG, even making P1's mandatory. Too many other tech and cultural roadblocks remain in place to make it a player at this time.

 

Why don't we start by having everyone already in VATSIM get a P1, and beyond, then when new guys show up it looks odd to not have one. Maybe if the demand is high enough the ATOs will build through those tech and cultural issues.

 

Divya Patel in the last BoG meeting announced we had broken through 10,000 pilot ratings issued, so only 90,000 to go.

Kyle Ramsey

 

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