I’m sure all of you IFR types know the drill. ATC assigns you a holding pattern and it is up to you to enter that hold in one of three ways: parallel, direct, or teardrop. Which entry do you choose? Well it all depends upon your intercept angle with the holding pattern… or something like that. Truth be told, I have no idea! But wait, how can you fly a holding pattern if you can’t do the mental math to compute your entry? It’s quite simple really: I do it visually.
That’s right, I barely even think about my entry. I just visualize the holding pattern, look at it, and visualize the appropriate entry. It’s quite simple really, lets look at a typical holding pattern. There are three possible holding pattern entries, all of which depend on where our airplane will be after crossing the holding fix. The trick is to remember three simple rules; after passing the fix, if the airplane is:
- Inside the hold, perform a teardrop entry.
Given the hold in the picture, if we approach the holding fix from the Northwest, then our airplane will be inside of the holding pattern (between the inbound and outbound legs).
- Outside the hold, perform a parallel entry.
Again, look at the picture, if we arrive from the East, the airplane will be outside of the holding pattern. We must turn to our outbound heading (180 in this case) and begin a parallel entry.
- With the hold, perform a direct entry.
This is the no-brainer. If you are heading in the same general direction as the inbound leg, just make that initial (in this case right) turn and fly the outbound leg.
This method sure beats doing a bunch of mental math whilst flying an airplane, and seriously reduces the chance of error. It is worth nothing that air traffic controllers don’t really care what kind of entry you make, so long as the airplane remains on the safe side (that’s the same side as the outbound leg). If you get all garbled up, just stick to the safe side and make it work!
I know holding patterns are a very abstract concept and can be difficult to envision. Please comment on this post if you need clarification on visually computing holding pattern entries.
Not easy enough for you? Try out my iPhone App: Hold Here which helps you compute holding pattern entries and even calculate a bug-out time!