You’re flying on a cross country IFR and all of a sudden air traffic control announces the bad news that your destination airport is expecting delays. He asks you if you’re ready to copy holding instructions. You receive a holding clearance over a VOR station, which you read back. Now you’re faced with the decision of how to enter the hold.
Although there are several tricks to help you decide upon the correct holding entry, in this article you’ll learn how to choose the correct one by drawing a plan view of the scenario. By actually drawing the holding patterns in the beginning of your flight training you’ll gain experience and better situational awareness. Later, as you gain more experience with this, you may choose to use other “tricks” that make the entry decision quicker.
After receiving the holding instruction, you slow down the aircraft, to gain time and conserve fuel (ATC is delaying inbound traffic anyway) and start drawing the situation:
- Draw the fix as a small dot or circle at the center of the paper. We will use a north up orientation, so the top of the sheet represents the north. Make sure you give yourself enough room to complete the whole picture in the next steps.
- Draw the inbound leg of the hold towards the fix as an arrow that connects to it. Drawing it as an arrow will help you avoid disorientation as to the direction of the holding pattern. For example, if you were instructed to hold on the 360 radial (radials are always bearings FROM a VOR), the inbound course would be 180, and the line would connect to the fix from the top of the page. Now you should have the holding fix and the inbound leg (remember, the bearing TO the station).
- Draw the first 180 degree turn, the outbound leg and the second 180 degree turn. This will complete the racetrack pattern and you will have a full holding pattern drawn of the sheet.
- Now you draw the position of the aircraft in relation to the fix. You first have to figure out where you are using your navigation instruments (HIS, VOR, RMI or ADF). For example if you’re on the 090 degree bearing TO the station, you should draw the aircraft on the left (west) side of the fix.
- Draw the current bearing to the station by connecting an arrowed line between the aircraft and the fix. You now should have a plan view of the whole scenario, and just have to figure out from which sector (parallel, teardrop or direct) you are approaching the holding fix.
- Draw the holding sectors. First, extend a line from the fix that mirrors the inbound leg. This is the border between the parallel and the teardrop sectors. Second, draw another line through the fix that creates a 70 degree angle with the other line on the top of the holding side. You should now have three sectors:
- a. 70 degrees is the teardrop sector
- 110 degrees for the parallel sector
- 180 degrees for the direct sector.
Choose the correct holding pattern entry by the sector from which you are approaching the fix.