How to fly a holding pattern

Since there is no other tutorial on the subject, and that’s what I’m studying right now in my IR training. I figured I’d put something up for you guys.


Here is an example of a standard holding pattern. The inbound leg will be the leg that has the holding Fix on it. The outbound leg will be the one on the opposite parallel side. This will come in useful when we get into diffrent entry types.

The basics of a holding pattern.

When instructed to enter a holding pattern you will either be given a FIX, VOR, or Airport to hold over. Then you will be instructed an altitude to maintain, and Right or Left turns for the hold. The right and left turns are based off of the Holding Fix not really your relation to where the hold originates on your screen.
Each leg of the holding pattern (inbound/ outbound) will be 1 minute long. In RL you can have several diffrent types they can be a timed hold such as the 1 minute or they can be a distance hold read by a DME. For simplicity sake we will just be talking about the 1 minute hold, the fix end, and outbound end turns will also be 1 minute long. Remember a standard turn is 2 minutes. Giving us a total of a 4 minute circuit.

Holding pattern entries

  • Direct entry

The shaded portion of this diagram is where you will be in relation to the hold for a direct pattern entry. The name is as implied a direct route to the Fix to start into the holding pattern.

  • Parallel entry

    For this entry you will over fly the waypoint. Goning the opposite direction of the holding pattern, and then turn more then 180 deg back toward the Fix. The shaded portion will be the entry area for this entry.

  • Tear drop entry

    In this entry we are going to fly over the holding Fix, and enter into the hold on the outbound turn or inbound leg. Similar to a parallel entry but from the opposite direction.

Here you will see all the holding entry’s in relation to the holding pattern.

Holding pattern speeds AIM

Maximum KIAS

Holding patterns are used for a variety of reasons. Weather, flow control, or just to give a pilot more time to decend. Ocassionally patterns will be stacked on top of each other. In these cases expect to enter high, and exit low.

  • Always wait for a vector/ clearance before exiting the hold.

    So now hopefully you have a basic understanding of how a holding pattern works, and hopefully how to fly them.


So… Is a holding pattern where there are so many aircaft about land (example-London Heathrow) and you have to do a holding pattern? That would make sense.

1 Like

Yes… A holding pattern is when you do a holding pattern…

They are often used due to inclement weather, excess traffic, or an outside issue, such as an airport emergency or power outage at the airport.


In other words, you fly around an area until you are cleared to land?

No, until you’re given any further instruction. Tower don’t give holding patterns (on IF)


I suggest you read the post instead of just going straight to the comments to ask questions answered in the post. :)


Sorta you will fly a circuit until cleared/ vectored out of the hold, and cleared for the approach.


Very detailed & interesting post, very… Informative is the word I think I’m looking for :)


Or when people call in 20 miles out at FL340. Wish someone could explain this thought process to me.


@Brandon_Sandstrom… Fine presentation, informative. Suggest you include “Hold-Stacking/lowest first” rules and how there applied for hi- Tempo flow control. Max Sends


Edited to include that cheers. 🍻

1 Like

Excellent job on this man. Great information here. 😉👍🏼


Over information not necessary… they’ll have a hard enough time grasping this

1 Like

@Heavydriver… MaxSez: Never underestimate the ability and expertise evidences everyday by the youth and inexperienced members of our community. I consider this App an aviation learning vehicle. The experienced amoung us have a duty to educate and enrich the experience of the willing with all of the facts.
(info: @D_Gee)


We’re still teaching people how to exit a runway properly… just foresight based on experience. Keep It Simple S+_&!> has been the best teaching tool for a long time.


Excellent Post!

Suggest to put this in giant letters. This is a critial point and it’s important to get very clear that a HOLD is not just one circle!


This discussion is off topic! See my PM. Max

1 Like

Excelent info ! Pretty easy to understand. I just learned something new in the world of aviation. I have a few questions tho…
-Are the turns in the holding need to be as tight as possible or is up to the pilot ? and are those mandatory speeds for the holding or the controller assign you one ?
Thanks !

1 Like

The turns should be a standard 2 minute turn so each half turn or 180 deg should equal 1 minute.[quote=“Brandon_Sandstrom, post:1, topic:110729”]
the fix end, and outbound end turns will also be 1 minute long. Remember a standard turn is 2 minutes. Giving us a total of a 4 minute circuit.

The speeds are a maximum KIAS for that altitude. However the controller may assign you a slower speed.


Maybe a read it fast and missed that info about the tuns. Thanks !

1 Like