London Heathrow- Holding Stacks

Everyone loves London Heathrow, right? Well, maybe some don’t, and perhaps several others would like to drop this airport in a vat of boiling acid.

Yeah, I get you. I also get your thristy desire to annilihate an airport. Especially as this specific one uses a lot of holds and accounts for fairly significant waiting times when clogged up in the real world.

Since global is eventually coming at one [point], and having just flown into EGLL the other day, I thought it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to compile a database of the regular stacks controllers use to hold aircraft around LHR when busy. Consider it insurance in case you budding radar controllers are encountering heavy traffic now and hopefully a significant spike after future updates.


#~LHR and its Holds~

To start, here’s a snapshot of the area around London Heathrow in IF; the VORs for the holds are encompassed within them.

  • (VORs are a sort of beacon in very simple terms for all you regular folk out there, by the way)

Looks pretty ordinary, right? Just a bunch of round blue VORs floating around in the vegatable soup of dozens of airports. If runways weren’t made of asphalt and instead of potatoes, they would indeed make tasty soup.

Anyway, let’s look at the main problem here- nobody knows where the holds for Heathrow are. Cue the mass panic.

But never fear, because several circles of highlighted colors and arrows will conveniently outline where the holding stacks for the airport are in relation to its location. You’re welcome!


The Ockham Hold

  • Flights from the U.S, Canada, and South America usually utilize this hold, as they are travelling west to east right into the direction of this stack. Expect some flights from Ireland as well.
  • Spawning in at an airport in the western edge of the region may land you a chance to get funneled into the stack when appropriate. Plus, I’m sure a nice flight from Shannon while sitting on your couch someday in the future will do the same.


The Bovingdon Hold

  • Same as Ockham. I like to consider this one and Ockham as twin Irish stepdancers. West to east, people. Plus, a general southwesterly direction works too.


The Lambourne Hold

  • Conversely, flights from the opposite direction will use the Lambourne stack. Expect aircraft flying that way from airports in the east and countries such as the Scandinavian countries, Norway, Russia, etc. Plus, what’s not to like about flights from Amsterdam heading there too?


The Biggin Hill Hold

  • Seems to accomodate that of Lambourne plus flights from lower Europe and airports in the general southeast direction. Middle East and some Asian flights also use this.



  • When working radar, click on the plane and drag the purple line over the VOR/airport in question and let go in order for the hold option to pop up.
  • 7,000-13,000 feet seem to be the levels the real world guys tend to interval the holds at w/ sheet and procedure checks. You can fit up to 7 planes altogether in one stack with that method. 1,000 feet of separation each.
  • Keep it efficient and take all aircraft down one level at a time. As a level of the stack vacates, insert another flying metal tube of death into it, whether it be prop or turbofan powered. A wasted slot can cost precious minutes for an airport with few runways.


Well… that’s about it, I guess. If you guys want a compiliation of very basic and simple arrival procedures for a multitude of airports, let me know. Maybe it’ll be cool to portfolio it into a package and distribute for pilots.

Remember, this is intended as a reference. Don’t use those holds for no reason; only if you have to. Just thought it’d be cool to let you guys know how they hold and where they do. How AWESOME would it be to fly from New York to Heathrow during a peak traffic period and get funneled in a stack? Insane.

I’m out. Peace.


You can also get the official charts (more useful for those flying without radar coverage- Do not attempt to follow these when approach is active) here:

Also note the procedures for when OCK, BNN and LAM are out of service. They really have everything covered.

Great explanation ;)


Nice write up @JoshFly8


As always, Josh, really great stuff. I’m looking forward to be put into one of these holding stacks. :)


I can accommodate that… lol

This is great!! really well put together. I wish more IFATC would issue holds and stacks

Josh, I’m starting to feel like you spend more time writing essays on here, about controlling on your iPad, than actual school essays.


But, Nice post, definitely a “A”!


I think this is an A+


But my old English teacher was a dumbass, so I can only base it from that.

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I would agree with you on that… your post gets a B-

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Sounds like my average, thanks!

Indeed. It was really cool to be in one of them the other day and see five other planes in the hold. Nighttime with all the strobes on and the city illuminated below is absolutely bone chilling.

I’m hoping that we can someday implement simplified aspects of the four main holds on a day-to-day basis with heavy traffic considered. Even the charts you linked will get a lot of people confused, as we can’t reach that kind of education to all pilots.

All things considered, the VORs won’t ever come out of service and force us to resort on the backup procedures unless IF adds beacon maintaince/repair and magical fairy workers who come out to tinker on them. ;)


This idea would work great at BHX

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