Aircraft circling last waypoint

Why do the planes sometimes circle the last waypoint vs going straight ahead in the heading from the last waypoint. If anyone can give me an answer that’d be great, just curious

Uh… are you talking holding patterns?

Usually they’ll circle the last waypoint if the angle is too tight to pass through. Other times, it will continue on the same heading as the last waypoint.


This might be due to how the waypoints can be super close to one another versus a waypoint that is particularly far

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No like if you fall asleep during a flight. Sometimes you circle the last waypoint but sometimes you maintain the heading of the last waypoint

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Due to the way the autopilot system is programmed, aircraft can miss waypoints based on making too wide of turns between two close together waypoints. A good way to avoid this problem is to keep waypoints far apart and/or using the “ACT LEG” feature in the flight plan section on the map, as it will navigate your aircraft to the next waypoint.


Sometimes the NAV Autopilot does not reach the waypoint in time so the aircraft turns around to reach it. But if this is a case with the last waypoint, you must turn off NAV since its role is to just simply follow the flight plan.

Oh right. That’s because two waypoints are close enough that when A/P starts a turn, it misses that waypoint and tries to intercept it, putting the plane in a perpetual circle. Always check your flight plans! 👍🏻

I generally suggest quickly running through your flight plan pre-pushback making note and removing any waypoints which seem to be very tight and believe you will not make. Happy flight planning!


Usually the speed is an issue, if you are still at cruise and at Mach .83 then you won’t reach your waypoints if they are tight. You should always check your FPL fit tight areas also as I have come back to IF hours later to find that the plane never even got halfway and instead it was circling trying to reach a waypoint.

Usually though it happens on arrival when people don’t realise that they are at their destination


Thanks guys. This is what brought up the question



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