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What Are Holding Patterns?

Holding patterns are essentially parking spots for airplanes. When ATC needs to sequence airplanes or create spacing, they often times will employ the technique of assigning a holding pattern for an airplane to fly. In a no-wind situation, the holding pattern ground track will look like a racetrack. Here are some general notes about holding patterns.

1. Standard turns are to the right. Non-standard turns are to the left.

2. Upon reaching the fix, you turn in the direction that was assigned and parallel your inbound course on the reciprocal heading.

3. Leg distances for holding patterns may be assigned in either time increments such as 1 minute legs, or distances such as 5 mile legs.

4. When approaching your holding fix, you are expected to slow to your holding speed when you are within 3 minutes of reaching the fix.

Maximum Holding Speeds

Altitude (MSL)........... Airspeed (KIAS)

MHA - 6,000'....................,......200 KIAS

6,001' - 14,000'........................230 KIAS

14,001' and above....................265 KIAS


5. If timing your legs, the inbound leg is expected to be 1 minute. This means that you are expected to vary the length of the outbound leg so that the inbound leg results in 1 minute.

6. Timing begins over or abeam the holding fix, whichever occurs and can be determined last.

7. Wind correction on the outbound leg should be 3 times that of what is being used on the inbound leg.

8. NEVER accept a hold from ATC unless they include an EFC (Expect Further Clearance) time.

- Think about what would happen if you lost communications while you are in the hold. If you do not have an EFC time, you have no way of knowing when you are expected to continue on to your clearance limit.


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