ASA’s CFI offers insights on difficult concepts posed in FAA exams. Each post will break down an FAA question and deconstruct the answer in a way aimed to teach aviators how to more effectively prepare themselves for their FAA examinations.

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CFI Brief: Airport Hot Spot

Ever heard of an airport hot spot, or wondered what that is? No, it’s not a scorching hot section of an airport, it’s more along the lines of the cool hip place to be at an airport. A hot spot is defined as a location on an airport movement area with a history of potential risk of collision or runway incursion, and where heightened attention by pilots and drivers is necessary.

These hot spot areas on the airport are found to be particularly complex and/or confusing and often times heavy traffic areas. Many times accidents, incidents, or runway incursions have been known to occur in these areas. The Chart Supplement U.S. will list a textual description of hot spots and a graphical depiction is shown on the Airport Diagram. Below is an example of a hot spot area for SUX airport labeled as HS-1. You can see that due to the crossing runways and taxiways this area could be rather confusing to a pilot not familiar with the airport.

By identifying hot spots, airport operators and air traffic controllers are able to plan for the safest possible movement of aircraft and vehicles operating on the movement area. As a pilot try to pre-plan your expected route to/from the runway and have a good idea of where your final destination is ahead of time and be aware of any hot spot areas which you might encounter. By making sure that aircraft surface movements are planned and properly coordinated with air traffic control, pilots add another layer of safety to their flight preparations.

Remember, the ultimate goal of hot spots is to prevent a ground based or runway incursion.

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CFI Brief: Airport Signage

Airport signage is an extremely important concept that all pilots will need to have a thorough understanding of prior to earning any  pilot certificate, whether it’s Private Pilot, Sport Pilot, or even a Remote Pilot Certificate.

Right of the bat you should take note that as an airport layout grows in complexity so will the signage associated with that airport. For example an airport with multiple runways will consist of a lot more signage then say an airport with one small runway. The reason being is more runways will require more taxiways and the greater likelihood for a runway or ground based incursion to occur. A pilot will need to pay a lot more attention at signage when operating at complex airports. In addition you will often see different types of signage at a Part 139 airport conducting commercial operations then you might at a small rural airport with no commercial operations.

There are six types of signs that may be found at airports.

Mandatory instruction signs—red background with white inscription. These signs denote an entrance to a runway, critical area, or prohibited area.

Location signs—black with yellow inscription and a yellow border, no arrows. They are used to identify a taxiway or runway location, to identify the boundary of the runway, or identify an instrument landing system (ILS) critical area.

Direction signs—yellow background with black inscription. The inscription identifies the designation of the intersecting taxiway(s) leading out of an intersection.

Destination signs—yellow background with black inscription and arrows. These signs provide information on locating areas, such as runways, terminals, cargo areas, and civil aviation areas.

Information signs—yellow background with black inscription. These signs are used to provide the pilot with information on areas that cannot be seen from the control tower, applicable radio frequencies, and noise abatement procedures. The airport operator determines the need, size, and location of these signs.

Runway distance remaining signs—black background with white numbers. The numbers indicate the distance of the remaining runway in thousands of feet.

The image below are further examples along with their action or purpose of the six types of airport signage discussed above. For further information on airport signage you can refer to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) 2-3-7 or the Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, Chapter 14 Airport Operations.

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CFI Brief: February 2018 Test Roll

The FAA February test cycle resulted in few changes or updates to the FAA Airman Knowledge Tests. The FAA Aviation Exam Board continues to work to align questions within the context of a specific Area of Operation/Task as outlined in the various Airman Certification Standards publications. The goal of this boarding process is to ensure all test questions correlate to a knowledge, risk management or skill element. The FAA makes their intentions clear by the Frequently Asked Questions and What’s New documents which are posted each test cycle. The next test cycle update is expected June 11th 2018.

Below is a list of the most recent changes affecting all pilot knowledge test question banks.

  • The FAA expects to develop test questions on the new BasicMed regulation in the future. Third-class medical questions will remain, since BasicMed is an addition to the medical certification structure, not a replacement of the third-class medical.
  • New questions based on FAA Form 7233-4, International Flight Plan (ICAO format)— release date is TBD.
  • Student Pilot/Medical Certificate – New questions based on the Student Pilot Certificate rule that took effect on April 1, 2016 are being developed. We expect to add these questions to appropriate knowledge tests by June 11, 2018.

Instrument Rating Airplane (IRA), Airline Transport Pilot Multi-Engine (ATM), Aircraft Dispatcher (ADX)  – All VOR/DME RNAV questions have been removed from the question banks for these knowledge tests.

These changes have been noted by ASA and updates for Prepware Software, Prepware Online, and Test Prep books will be available shortly. If you would like to be notified when these updates have become available be sure to follow the link below and sign-up for notifications.


Handbook and Advisory Circular Updates

New and cool from ASA!

 The Complete Remote Pilot – Available NOW

The Droner’s Manual – Available NOW

The Flight Instructors Manual – NEW Sixth Edition

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CFI Brief: Aviation Weather Services (AC 00-45H) – UPDATE

The FAA has issued a Change 1 to Advisory Circular AC 00-45H effective January 8th 2018. AC 00-45, more commonly referred as Aviation Weather Services, is the go-to resource for U.S. aviation weather products and services. This document is organized using the FAA’s three distinct types of aviation weather information: observations, analyses, and forecasts. This is a vital resource and should be a part of any aviators library.

Here are some of the highlights on what you need to know regarding Change 1:

  • DUATS II no longer requires an airman medical to access the system (
  • A new section was added to Chapter 3, Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR). The TDWR network is a Doppler weather radar system operated by the FAA, which is used primarily for the detection of hazardous windshear conditions, precipitation, and winds aloft on and near major airports situated in climates with great exposure to thunderstorms in the United States. To review this information refer to Section 3.4.
  • A new sub-section was added to Chapter 3, POES. POES stands for the Polar Orbiting Environment Satellites, although more recently the U.S. polar satellite program has been rechristened the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). Polar satellites are not stationary. They track along various orbits around the poles. Typically, they are somewhere between 124 and 1,240 mi above the Earth’s surface. The satellites scan the Earth in swaths as they pass by on their tracks. To review this information refer to Section 3.5.3.
  • Note in chapter 5 section 6 that Collaborative Convective Forecast Planning (CCFP) is now Convective Forecast (TCF). The figures and language throughout this section have been updated to reflect this updated weather product. To review this information refer to Section 5.6.3.
  • A new section was added to Chapter 5, Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA). The GFAs are a set of Web-based displays which are expected to provide the necessary aviation weather information to give users a complete picture of the weather that may impact flights in the CONUS. These displays are updated continuously and provide forecasts, observational data, and warnings of weather phenomena that can be viewed from 14 hours in the past to 15 hours in the future. This product covers the surface up to FL420 (or 42,000 ft MSL). Wind, icing, and turbulence forecasts are available in 3,000-ft increments from the surface up to 18,000 ft MSL, and in 6,000-ft increments from 18,000 ft MSL to FL420. Turbulence forecasts are also broken into low (below 18,000 ft MSL) and high (above 18,000 ft MSL) graphics. A maximum icing graphic and maximum wind velocity graphic (regardless of altitude) are also available. The graphic below is an example of an aviation forecast for clouds. To review this information refer to Section 5.9.
  • A new section was added to Chapter 5, Localized Aviation Model Output Statistics (MOS) Program (LAMP). The LAMP weather product is a statistical model program that provides specific point forecast guidance on sensible weather elements (perceivable elements such as temperature, wind, sky cover, etc.). LAMP weather product forecasts are provided in both graphical and coded text format, and are currently generated for more than 1,500 locations. The LAMP weather product is entirely automated and may not be as accurate as a forecast generated with human involvement. However, information from the LAMP weather product can be used in combination with Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAF), and other weather reporting and forecasting products and tools, to provide additional information and enhance situational awareness regarding a particular location. To review this information refer to Section 5.10.  
  • Hawaii was added to Section 5.11.1 as an area of issuance for an Area Forecast (FA). You will find new figures and detailed information regarding the Hawaii Area Forecast. To review this information refer to Section 5.11.1.
  • A new sub-section was added to Chapter 5, Low-Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS). The LLWAS system was originally developed by the FAA in the 1970s to detect large-scale wind shifts (sea breeze fronts, gust fronts, and cold and warm fronts). It was developed by the FAA in response to an accident at JFK Airport in New York. The aircraft (Eastern 66) landed during a wind shift caused by interacting sea breeze and thunderstorm outflows. To review this information refer to Section

ASA will have an Change 1 update available shortly to go along with all printed copies of the Aviation Weather Handbook (ASA-AC00-45H). The update will be posted on the Textbooks Update page at

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CFI Brief: Icing

Ice sucks, unless of course you are a hockey player, figure skater, or just want a nice, cold, tasty beverage. But in terms of aviation, ice sucks. In general, icing is any deposit of ice forming on an object. In aviation icing is considered to be one of the major weather hazards affecting flight. We refer to icing as a cumulative hazard, meaning the longer an aircraft collects structural icing the worse the hazard will become. Structural icing is the stuff that sticks to the outside of the airplane, it occurs whenever supercooled condensed droplets of water make contact with any part of the airframe that is also at a temperature below freezing. An inflight condition necessary for structural icing to form is visible moisture (clouds or raindrops). Structural icing is categorized into three types: Rime, Clear, and Mixed.

Rime Ice

Rime ice is rough, milky, and opaque ice formed by the instantaneous freezing of small, supercooled water droplets after they strike the aircraft. It is the most frequently reported icing type. Rime ice can pose a hazard because its jagged texture can disrupt an aircraft’s aerodynamic integrity.

Rime icing formation favors colder temperatures, lower liquid water content, and small droplets. It grows when droplets rapidly freeze upon striking an aircraft. The rapid freezing traps air and forms a porous, brittle, opaque, and milky-colored ice. Rime ice grows into the air stream from the forward edges of wings and other exposed parts of the airframe.

Clear Ice

Clear ice (or glaze ice) is a glossy, clear, or translucent ice formed by therelatively slow freezing of large, supercooled water droplets. Clear icing conditions exist more often in an environment with warmer temperatures, higher liquid water contents, and larger droplets.

Clear ice forms when only a small portion of the drop freezes immediately while the remaining unfrozen portion flows or smears over the aircraft surface and gradually freezes. Few air bubbles are trapped during this gradual process. Thus, clear ice is less opaque and denser than rime ice. It can appear either as a thin smooth surface, or as rivulets, streaks, or bumps on the aircraft.

Clear icing is a more hazardous ice type for many reasons. It tends to form horns near the top and bottom of the airfoils leading edge, which greatly affects airflow. This results in an area of disrupted and turbulent airflow that is considerably larger than that caused by rime ice. Since it is clear and difficult to see, the pilot may not be able to quickly recognize that it is occurring. It can be difficult to remove since it can spread beyond the deicing or anti-icing equipment, although in most cases it is removed nearly completely by deicing devices.

Mixed Ice

Mixed ice is a mixture of clear ice and rime ice. It forms as an airplane collects both rime and clear ice due to small-scale (tens of kilometers or less) variations in liquid water content, temperature, and droplet sizes. Mixed ice appears as layers of relatively clear and opaque ice when examined from the side.

Mixed icing poses a similar hazard to an aircraft as clear ice. It may form horns or other shapes that disrupt airflow and cause handling and performance problems. It can spread over more of the airframe’s surface and is more difficult to remove than rime ice. It can also spread over a portion of airfoil not protected by anti-icing or deicing equipment. Ice forming farther aft causes flow separation and turbulence over a large area of the airfoil, which decreases the ability of the airfoil to keep the aircraft in flight.


Effects of Icing

Remember when I said a few paragraphs earlier that ice sucks? Well I didn’t really explain myself as to why.

When structural icing forms, it reduces aircraft efficiency by increasing weight, reducing lift, decreasing thrust, and increasing drag. Each effect will either slow the aircraft or force it downward.  As ice accumulates the performance characteristics of the aircraft will continually deteriorate eventually to a point where the aircraft can no longer maintain sustained flight and stalls.  The image below is a good depiction of this.

As ice forms on an airfoil, it will destroy the smooth flow of air over the surface of the wing resulting in drag and diminishing the maximum lift capable of the wing. NASA wind tunnel testing has shown that icing on the leading edge or upper surface of a wing no thicker then coarse sandpaper can reduce lift by 30 percent and increase drag by 40 percent.

In addition icing can also cause instrumentation errors, frozen or unbalanced control surfaces, engine failures and/or structural damage due to chunks of ice breaking off.

Additional Knowledge to Know

  • Icing in precipitation (rain) is of concern to the VFR pilot because it can occur outside of clouds.
  • Aircraft structural ice will most likely have the highest accumulation in freezing rain which indicates warmer temperature at a higher altitude.
  • The presence of ice pellets at the surface is evidence that there is freezing rain at a higher altitude, while wet snow indicates that the temperature at your altitude is above freezing.
  • A situation conducive to any icing would be flying in the vicinity of a front.



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CFI Brief: How does a Propeller Work?

The propeller is a rotating airfoil which produces thrust by creating a positive dynamic pressure, usually on the engine side. Some exceptions include the Piaggio Avanti, shown below which uses propellers mounted in what’s often referred to as the pusher configuration.

When a propeller rotates, the tips travel at a greater speed than the hub. To compensate for the greater speed at the tips, the blades are twisted slightly. The propeller blade angles decrease from the hub to the tips with the greatest angle of incidence, or highest pitch, at the hub and the smallest at the tip. This produces a relatively uniform angle of attack (uniform lift) along the blade’s length in cruise flight.

No propeller is 100% efficient. There is always some loss of power when converting engine output into thrust. This loss is primarily due to propeller slippage. A propeller’s efficiency is the ratio of thrust horsepower (propeller output) to brake horsepower (engine output). A fixed propeller will have a peak (best) efficiency at only one combination of airspeed and RPM.

A constant-speed (controllable-pitch) propeller allows the pilot to select the most efficient propeller blade angle for each phase of flight. In this system, the throttle controls the power output as registered on the manifold pressure gauge, and the propeller control regulates the engine RPM (propeller RPM). The pitch angle of the blades is changed by governor regulated oil pressure which keeps engine speed at a constant selected RPM. A constant-speed propeller allows the pilot to select a small propeller blade angle (flat pitch) and high RPM to develop maximum power and thrust for takeoff.

To reduce the engine output to climb power after takeoff, a pilot should decrease the manifold pressure. The RPM is decreased by increasing the propeller blade angle. When the throttle is advanced (increased) during cruise, the propeller pitch angle will automatically increase to allow engine RPM to remain the same. A pilot should avoid a high manifold pressure setting with low RPM on engines equipped with a constant-speed propeller to prevent placing undue stress on engine components. To avoid high manifold pressure combined with low RPM, the manifold pressure should be reduced before reducing RPM when decreasing power settings, and the RPM increased before increasing the manifold pressure when increasing power settings.

Let’s take a look at these three sample knowledge test questions and see if we can answer them given the information from Monday and todays posts.

1. Which statement best describes the operating principle of a constant-speed propeller?
A—As throttle setting is changed by the pilot, the prop governor causes pitch angle of the propeller blades to remain unchanged.
B—A high blade angle, or increased pitch, reduces the propeller drag and allows more engine power for takeoffs.
C—The propeller control regulates the engine RPM and in turn the propeller RPM.

2. Propeller efficiency is the
A—ratio of thrust horsepower to brake horsepower.
B—actual distance a propeller advances in one revolution.
C—ratio of geometric pitch to effective pitch.

3. A fixed-pitch propeller is designed for best efficiency only at a given combination of
A—altitude and RPM.
B—airspeed and RPM.
C—airspeed and altitude.

Answers in the comments section.

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CFI Brief: FAA Safety Briefing, January 2018

The first edition of the FAA Safety Briefing for 2018 is now available and includes some great articles. One in particular that I found to be very informative is “Simple?” written by Susan Parsons. This is a great article that discusses getting back to the basics of piloting in an otherwise complex environment. To read this, and other articles, download the latest edition by selecting the below image.

Also recently published is Advisory Circular 61-65G, which replaces the -65F. This advisory circular (AC) provides guidance for pilot applicants, pilots, flight instructors, ground instructors, and examiners on the certification standards, knowledge test procedures, and other requirements in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 61. This AC is also commonly known as your go to reference for sample endorsements for use by authorized instructors when endorsing logbooks, or other means found acceptable to the Administrator for airmen applying for a knowledge or practical test, or when certifying accomplishment of requirements for pilot operating privileges.

ASA has noted all these changes throughout this AC and updated our fill-in PDF Endorsement Labels accordingly. To download this free product check out the link below:

ASA Endorsement Labels

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CFI Brief: CX-3 Flight Computer – Indicated Airspeed

Some questions on the FAA Knowledge Exam will require you to determine approximate indicated airspeed. These types of problems are best solved with the use of a CX-3 Flight Computer. Today, we will work through a sample knowledge test question requiring us to run several different calculations on the CX-3 to determine indicated airspeed from the given information. Problems like the one below are a great way to get use to using your new go to tool in the flight bag.

On a cross-country flight, point A is crossed at 1500 hours and the plan is to reach point B at 1530 hours. Use the following information to determine the indicated airspeed required to reach point B on schedule.

Distance between A and B 70 NM
Forecast wind 310° at 15 kts
Pressure altitude 8,000 ft
Ambient temperature -10 °C
True course 270°

The required indicated airspeed would be approximately

A. 126 knots.
B. 137 knots.
C. 152 knots.

Step 1 is to determine the Ground Speed it will take to cover 70 NM in 30 minutes (1500 – 1530 hours), this information is given in the question.

From the FLT menu select the Ground Speed Function.

Input a Distance (Dist) of 70 NM and Duration (Dur) of 0.50 HR to get a Ground Speed (GS) of 140 KTS.

Step 2 we need to find the True Airspeed using our equated ground speed, forecast wind, and true course.

From the FLT menu select Wind Correction.

Input a Ground Speed (GS) of 140 KTS, True Course (TCrs) of 270°, Wind Speed (WSpd) of 15 KTS, and Wind Direction (WDir) of 310°. The CX-3 will show a TAS of 151.8 KTS.

Step 3 we can now determine the required indicated airspeed using the true airspeed determined in step 2 and the pressure altitude and ambient temperature given in the question. Note that the Indicate Airspeed is shown in the CX-3 as Calibrated Airspeed (CAS).

From the FLT menu select Airspeed.

Input a True Airspeed (TAS) of 151.8 KTS, Outside Air Temperature (OAT) of -10°C, and Pressure Altitude (PAlt) of 8,000 FT. The CX-3 will show a CAS of 137.15.

The correct answer to the above question is B: 137 knots.

For additional information on using your CX-3 Flight Computer check out the complete Users Guide at

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CFI Brief: Pressure Altitude Conversions

Pressure altitude is the height above the standard datum plane (SDP). The aircraft altimeter is essentially a sensitive barometer calibrated to indicate altitude in the standard atmosphere. If the altimeter is set for 29.92 “Hg SDP, the altitude indicated is the pressure altitude—the altitude in the standard atmosphere corresponding to the sensed pressure.

The SDP is a theoretical level at which the pressure of the atmosphere is 29.92 “Hg and the weight of air is 14.7 psi. As atmospheric pressure changes, the SDP may be below, at, or above sea level. Pressure altitude is important as a basis for determining aircraft performance, as well as for assigning flight levels to aircraft operating at above 18,000 feet.

The pressure altitude can be determined by any of the three following methods:

  1. By setting the barometric scale of the altimeter to 29.92 “Hg and reading the indicated altitude,
  2. By applying a correction factor to the indicated altitude according to the reported “altimeter setting,” see figure below.
  3. By using a CX-3 Flight Computer.

Let’s try a sample problem using the above chart.

1. Determine the pressure altitude at an airport that is 1,386 feet MSL with an altimeter setting of 29.55.
A—1,631 feet MSL.
B—1,731 feet MSL.
C—1,778 feet MSL.

Looking at the above chart you will see that 29.65 is not actually shown so we will need to interpolate between 29.50 and 29.60. Subtract 298 from 392 to get 94 and then divide by 2 since 29.55 is directly in the middle. You get 47 which you can now add to 298 to come up with 345 altitude correction. Add 345 onto you airport elevation to find the pressure altitude, 1,386 + 345 = 1,731 PAlt.

The correct answer is B, 1,731 feet MSL.

Here is another problem which can be solved by using your CX-3 Flight Computer.

2. Determine the pressure altitude at an airport that is 3,563 feet MSL with an altimeter setting of 29.96.
A—3,527 feet MSL.
B—3,556 feet MSL.
C—3,639 feet MSL.

Using you CX-3 open the FLT menu and select Altitude from the list. Enter your IAlt (indicated altitude) or airport elevation of 3,563 feet. Scroll down to the Baro field and enter your altimeter setting of 29.96. The CX-3 will then give you a PAlt of 3,527 feet MSL. The correct answer is A.

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CFI Brief: Altimeter Pressure Errors

High to low look out below, low to high clear the sky! If you have never heard that saying before you are probably pretty confused right now. Let me help ease that confusion and explain that today we are discussing altimeter errors when flying in areas of changing atmospheric pressures. The discussion will revolve around two specific Private Pilot Knowledge Test questions that I get calls about regularly. These questions outline common areas that trip students up, resulting in mass confusion.

1. If a flight is made from an area of low pressure into an area of high pressure without the altimeter setting being adjusted, the altimeter will indicate
A. the actual altitude above sea level.
B. higher than the actual altitude above sea level.
C. lower than the actual altitude above sea level.

2. If a flight is made from an area of high pressure into an area of lower pressure without the altimeter setting being adjusted, the altimeter will indicate
A. lower than the actual altitude above sea level.
B. higher than the actual altitude above sea level.
C. the actual altitude above sea level.

If you answered B an A, respectively, then you are also having some of the same confusion about this topic that many other students experience. Let’s start with the knowledge required to answer these questions.

It is easy to maintain a consistent height above ground if the barometric pressure and temperature remain constant, but this is rarely the case. The pressure and temperature can change between takeoff and landing on a local flight and even more drastically when flying cross country between areas of varying pressure and temperature. If these changes are not taken into consideration, flight becomes dangerous.

For example, when flying from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure without adjusting the altimeter, a constant indicated altitude will remain but the aircraft’s actual altitude above ground level will be lower than indicated. Conversely, when flying from an area of low pressure to an area of high pressure the aircraft’s actual altitude above ground level will be higher than the indicated altitude on the altimeter. The image below is a good visual depiction of flying from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure and the resulting altitude of the aircraft above the ground level if the altimeter is not adjusted. 

The reason so many students answer these questions incorrectly is not so much because they don’t understand the principle knowledge, but rather because they are not understanding what the question is asking. Both questions are asking what the ALTIMETER will indicate, not what the aircraft’s actual altitude is relative to the ground.

The correct answer to question 1 is C: the altimeter will indicate lower than the actual altitude above sea level. When flying from a low pressure area into a high pressure area the aircraft’s altitude will slowly increase while the altimeter remains constant; therefore, the ALTIMETER is indicating a LOWER altitude then what the aircraft is actually flying.

Vice versa, the correct answer to question 2 is B: the altimeter will indicate higher than the actual altitude above sea level. When flying from a high pressure area into a low pressure area, the aircraft’s altitude will slowly decrease while the altimeter remains constant therefore the ALTIMETER is indicating a HIGHER altitude then what the aircraft is actually flying.

Tricky questions yes, but also a very important piece of knowledge to fully understand. You should now be able to correctly answer these on your knowledge test as well as remember to adjust the altimeter when flying between different air pressure systems.

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