If you fly enough “real” IFR, at some point you will find that you cannot land at your planned destination without some Air Traffic Control delays. Maybe the airport has low IFR conditions, and other aircraft are ahead of you on the approach. Perhaps there is a thunderstorm over the approach end of the runway, or the plane ahead of you suffered a flat tire on roll-out, temporarily closing the only runway. For whatever reason, you are not landing, and ATC is going to issue a delay “hold” over some “fix” until it is your turn to commence the approach.
If one is going to receive a hold from ATC, the most likely time will be during the arrival phase of flight. ATC uses holds to slow and separate incoming traffic to an airport.
For single-pilot instrument flying in the clouds, getting a hold from Air Traffic Control during high workloads in the Terminal Area can be confusing. The pilot is already busy setting up for the approach, studying the terminal approach procedure, setting up nav and com radios, programming the GPS and listening to the ATIS. And, of course, flying the plane.
Holds don’t get assigned very often in the real world of general aviation IFR flying. The last one I flew was in a twin-Cessna 310 some years ago, on approach to Key West International. But when they are issued, the pilot needs to quickly and accurately calculate the correct holding entry, whether it is a Direct, Parallel or Teardrop type entry. If you do it wrong, at best you may get admonished by ATC. At worst, you might hit something because you left the protected area of the hold.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, there is now an app that helps you quickly and easily calculate holds called Hold Here. With this app, the pilot simply twists/dials the assigned inbound radial directly on the screen with his/her thumb and forefinger. Next, twist dial in the aircraft’s current heading to intercept that radial. Finally, select “Left Turns” or “Right Turns” and instantly your correct holding pattern entry and courses will be depicted.
The great thing is that this app is that it does not require a GPS connection, nor does the hold need to be a “published” hold. If ATC tells you to hold on the 030 degree radial northeast of the XXXXX fix, with right turns, you don’t need fumble for paper and pencil to draw how you are going to comply with the clearance. (Note: This app is not designed to show your position in a geo-referenced hold.)
Another neat feature this app provides is called Bug-Out Time. This feature calculates how long you can safely remain in the hold before diverting to your alternate for fuel. Pilots refer to this as “bingo fuel”. Simply type in your ground speed, the distance to your destination, the distance to your alternate, your current fuel burn and the remaining fuel on board in the required fields. Instantly the app will indicate how many minutes you can safely remain in hold before diverting to your alternate.
If I was a CF-II, I would be all over this new app for training my students. For $2.99, you can’t go wrong. I only wish I had thought of this idea first.
Here are some screen grabs of Hold Here and Bug-Out showing the holds being depicted. As can see, the entry to the assigned radial changes depending on the inbound heading, instantly advising you the correct entry pattern as you twist radials.
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