How to Fly a Holding Pattern

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How to…. Fly a Hold
by Jacques Zahar, CFI
(Note this page is best viewed with a 1024X768 resolution)
 
Basically, a Hold is for airplanes like a stoplight for cars. Except that you can’t put the parking brake on in flight….  
The purpose is to have the plane wait at a specified part of airspace (“Protected airspace”) until the traffic ahead of your plane is far away enough or has landed.  
Though Holding instructions are seldom ever used under the Procontroller/Squawkbox virtual ATC environment, on very congested areas (Fly-ins) or simply for practice, it can be interesting both for ATC and Pilot if Hold is accepted and flown. The purpose of these pages is to give Virtual Pilots a way to fly a Hold manually.  

This section will be divided into 4 sections:
 
1-     Holding Clearances: How to decipher holding clearances
2-     Types of entry: Depending on your location, how to enter a holding pattern properly
3-     Flying a Hold: Principles of holding
4-     Exiting a Hold: What to do next?
 
Before having a look at holding clearances, let’s see the basic elements of a Holding pattern :  
Without crosswind, a Holding pattern is like a racetrack:
See the arrows? They indicate the turn direction. A holding pattern with right turns is called a standard hold, one with left turns is called a non-standard hold. This is important to know, as some ATC can say “standard” instead of “right turns” or assume that the hold will be standard if they don’t specify the direction of the turns.  

See also the inbound leg: this is the leg to which ATC refers to when giving the clearance, it is always going to and finishing at the holding fix. The inbound leg should be flown for ONE minute if below 14000 feet or ONE ½ minute if above 14000feet unless otherwise specified. The outbound leg is not timed and depending on the wind can take more or less time than the inbound leg. Note that ATC can also give DME Holds, in which case ATC will specify the distances from the navigation aid at which the inbound and outbound legs are to be terminated. In this case no timing should occur, since the DME distances given describe the end of the inbound leg and the start of the turn outbound, and the end of the outbound leg and the start of the turn inbound.  

Last, look at the turns. No radius is specified here since they are all standard rate turns (3° per second) in a hold. It’s time to use the small airplane of your turn coordinator !  
 
 
1-    Holding clearances:
Note that not all holds are issued by ATC. One can have to hold without specific instructions if the last point you have been cleared to is reached without further ATC instructions (ATC is sometimes busy…) or when communications have been lost. In that case use a standard pattern (right turns) upon reaching the last assigned fix.  

ATC issues holding instructions in the following form:
-         Geographical reference of the Holding fix: the general location of the holding
-         Inbound leg: the inbound leg is always the reference
-         Turn direction: (right turns (standard) or left turns (non-standard)
-         Altitude
-         Expected further clearance time (EFC)
-         Current time (optional)
 
For example: “C-GSRW, hold north-west of the Mirabel VOR on the 330 degrees radial, left turns, maintain 5000 feet, expect further clearance at 1730, time is 1712”  
“hold north-west…”
The general direction of the holding pattern’s inbound leg in reference of the holding fix, using geographical directions (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW,)   “the Mirabel VOR..”The holding fix. This can be a VOR, an NDB, or a Fix (intersection) or even a Marker beacon.A holding fix can also be defined via DME distances, in that instance a radial and DME distance are given.  “on the 330 degrees radial…”The track upon which the holding pattern’s inbound leg is located | |  

“left turns…”
Obvious. Note that the turns used to enter the hold are not...
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