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How To Enter A Hold

| July 5, 2020 | By: Severe VFR
Holding pattern zone and entry chart

Entering a hold requires a pilot to perform three steps:

  1. Slow down below the maximum airspeed.
  2. Determine which type of holding entry to perform
  3. Perform the holding entry correctly

Maximum Holding Airspeed

Maximum Holding Airspeeds Vs Altitude Chart

To remain within a holding pattern's airspace, a pilot must slow an aircraft below a pre-determined indicated airspeed or maximum holding airspeed (MHA). 

Maximum holding airspeeds are determined by the altitude the aircraft will be flying at and change if an aircraft descends or climbs during the hold.

Speed reductions should begin when the aircraft is 3 minutes or less from the holding fix, with the holding fix crossed at or below the maximum holding airspeed. 

Exceptions or changes to maximum holding airspeeds can include:

  1. A depiction or icon restricting the maximum holding airspeed to 210 knots for holding patterns between 6001ft - 14,000ft.
  2. Instrument approaches procedures limiting the maximum holding airspeed to 175 knots. This limitation is commonly found on instrument approach procedures and only applicable to category A and B aircraft.
  3. Airforce airfields and naval airspeeds have maximum holding airspeeds of 310 and 230 knots, respectively, unless otherwise depicted. 
  4. The pilot is unable to comply with maximum airspeed restrictions. The pilot should notify ATC if this is the case. 

Holding Entries

Holding pattern entry zones

The FAA recommends three types of holding entries to remain within a holds protected airspace. 

  1. Parallel Entry, Zone A.
  2. Teardrop Entry, Zone B.
  3. Direct Entry, Zone C.

The inbound holding course defines these areas, and a zone divider rotates 70 degrees from the inbound holding course. Each zone determines the best type of holding entry to perform. 

Parallel Entry

Holding pattern parallel entry graphic

A parallel entry should be performed when the pilot is approaching a holding fix from zone A.

This entry is completed in 4 steps:

  1. Fly direct to the fix
  2. Turn to a heading parallel to the holding course and fly outbound for 1 minute
  3. Turn into the holding fix's direction with a heading change great enough to either return to the holding fix or intercept the holding course.
  4. Intercept the fix or holding course and fly the hold.

Teardrop Entry

Holding pattern teardrop entry graphic

Teardrop entries should be performed when the pilot is approaching the holding fix from zone B. 

This type of entry is also completed in 4 steps:

  1. Fly direct to the fix
  2. Turn 30 degrees off the outbound heading towards the holding fix
  3. Fly outbound for 1 minute
  4. Turn into the inbound course to intercept the inbound holding course

Direct Entry

Holding pattern direct entry graphic

A direct entry is the easiest type of entry to perform and should be performed when a pilot approaches a holding fix from zone c.

This entry only involves two steps:

  1. Fly direct to the hold
  2. Fly the hold upon crossing the holding fix 

If a pilot finds themselves within 5 degrees of two different entry zones, they may choose either entry to enter the hold. 


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