Darren Smith, Flight Instructor
  Home | Login | Schedule | Pilot Store | 7-Day IFR | IFR Adventure | Trip Reports | Blog | Fun | Reviews | Weather | Articles | Links | Helicopter | Download | Bio

Site Map


Private Pilot
  Learn to Fly

Instrument Pilot
  7 day IFR Rating
  IFR Adventure

Commercial Pilot

Multi-Engine Pilot

Human Factors/CRM

Recurrent Training

Ground Schools


Privacy Policy
About Me


Support this Website

Holding Patterns Simplified

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
from IFR Checkride Reviewer
IFR Navigation:   General Info Instrument Rating | Instrument Rating Lesson Plans | 7-day IFR Rating IFR Adventure | Instrument Ground School | Safety Pilot | Holding | IFR Risk | Trip Reports | Flight Profiles | Rating Requirements | After the IFR Rating | Checkride Reviewer | Visi-Hold | Are you ready?
Click here to get a printable copy of this webpage
The purpose of a hold is to park aircraft in the sky somewhere until ATC is ready to sequence the aircraft inbound for approach & landing.  It can happen when TRACON can’t get you passed off to Center (called a departure hold) or when TRACON can’t get you sequenced into an approach (arrival hold).

Holding patterns baffle most pilots.  I see a lot of students holding up three fingers to the DG and mumbling nonsense to themselves.  In order to end the confusion, and simplify this for easy learning, use this 3-step method described below.  Once you get the idea, check your instrument textbook for a diagram that shows the "official method" of hold entries.

The Easy Way...

Step 1, Diagram the instructions given.  "Hold on the 270 Radial, west of the 15 DME fix from ABC VOR, standard pattern, 1 minute legs." Standard pattern means right turns.

The 270 radial from the ABC VOR

Step 2, Determine what side of the hold you are entering from.   Here's the simple method that handles most of all hold entries. 

  • Chop the holding pattern in half as shown (see the red line).  If you are entering from the fat side, its always a direct entry.  Go to Step 3 for an example.
The fat side is always direct entry
  • If you are entering the hold from the thin side, chop the holding pattern between the protected side and the non-protected side (see the blue line).    If you are entering from a heading on the protected side, and thin side, its always parallel entry.  If you are entering on the non-protected side, and on the thin side, its a teardrop entry.
The protected side of the hold

Step 3.  What does each look like?  As you can see from the red dashed line, sometimes your ground track executing the hold isn't perfect.

Direct Entry, entering on the fat side of the hold, in-bound heading for this example is approximately 060 degrees:

Direct entry

Parallel Entry
, entering from the thin, protected side, in-bound heading for this example is approximately 330:

Parallel entry

Teardrop Entry, entering from the thin, non-protected side, in-bound heading for this example is approximately 240 degrees:

Teardrop entry


Examples of Holding

1.  Holding at an outer marker.
2.  Holding at an intersection of VOR radials.
3.  Holding at a DME fix (or enroute fix).
      a.  Outbound hold - holding course away from navaid
      b.   Inbound hold - holding course toward navaid


What You Said

Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2007 Name = Daniel I
Comments = You know? I am so happy I found that explaination for entry procedures. Ive been a pilot for about 7years now. Honestly, flying the airplane is a piece of cake, ATC is awesome as long as you dont sound like an idiot when talking to them, but holding pattern entrys have turned my lessons from exciting to no fun. I have tried every way out there.
You just put it into words for me. Thanks a lot. Cant wait to put into action!

Your Thoughts...

Name: (Anonymous posts deleted)

E-mail: (if you want a reply)

How did you hear
of this website?
Message:  (What should I write?)
Business Card
News Group
Safety Seminar
Word of Mouth
(Required) Enter number from image to send:


Check this out...
  Home | Login | Schedule | Pilot Store | 7-Day IFR | IFR Adventure | Trip Reports | Blog | Fun | Reviews | Weather | Articles | Links | Helicopter | Download | Bio
All content is Copyright 2002-2010 by Darren Smith. All rights reserved. Subject to change without notice. This website is not a substitute for competent flight instruction. There are no representations or warranties of any kind made pertaining to this service/information and any warranty, express or implied, is excluded and disclaimed including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability and/or fitness for a particular purpose. Under no circumstances or theories of liability, including without limitation the negligence of any party, contract, warranty or strict liability in tort, shall the website creator/author or any of its affiliated or related organizations be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, consequential or punitive damages as a result of the use of, or the inability to use, any information provided through this service even if advised of the possibility of such damages. For more information about this website, including the privacy policy, see about this website.