# Holding *west* on the 090 radial?

This question was on a practice instrument test:

You receive this ATC clearance: "HOLD WEST OF THE ONE FIVE DME FIX ON THE ZERO NINE ZERO RADIAL OF ABC VORTAC, FIVE MILE LEGS, LEFT TURNS…" You arrive at the 15 DME fix on a heading of 350°. Which holding pattern correctly complies with these instructions, and what is the recommended entry procedure?

With this image:

I've only flown in practice holds where holding west was on the 270 radial, and holding east was on the 090 radial. I get that in this example, I'm holding west of the 15 DME, but I didn't know ATC would assign a hold like that. Is this a real situation, or is this a bad practice question?

• The #2 is bogus, but in a way unrelated to the fix definition: you always cross the holding fix while on the defining radial, and then turn outbound in the specified direction. That's #1. With a map display you probably could fly that pattern 2, but not with more basic instrumentation, which is what the holding rules are written for. For #2 illustration to work, the triangle for the fix would have to be moved left, roughly under the "15" notation. (And then you'd be holding east of the fix.)
– Ralph J
Commented Jul 17 at 12:47

Let's break this down to its parts.

HOLD WEST OF THE ONE FIVE DME FIX

Yes, this is why the depicted holds are west of the fix, not west of the VOR.

ON THE ZERO NINE ZERO RADIAL OF ABC VORTAC

This gives us the holding course. Don't get confused by radials/inbound/outbound terminology. Because the hold is west of the fix, the inbound course to the fix is 090.

FIVE MILE LEGS, LEFT TURNS…"

This is a nonstandard pattern.

You arrive at the 15 DME fix on a heading of 350°.

This implies one of two things. Either the 15 DME fix coincides with a 2nd VOR radial that was assigned as a course to the intersection, or an RNAV direct course to the fix was assigned.

Which holding pattern correctly complies with these instructions?

Because of the nonstandard left turns, pattern #1 is correct.

What is the recommended entry procedure?

Direct entry is recommended. This can be the most confusing part. Arriving from the "right" side of the "left" holding pattern on a heading more than 70 degrees from the outbound course (80 degrees in this case), it should be a direct entry.

Using what I call the "pen trick", hold a pen vertically over the heading indicator, rotate it 70 degrees to the left (for a left hold) and then check the sector of the outbound course 270. This course falls below the pen, which is the direct entry sector.

Is this a real situation?

Yes. Think of it as a 270 radial from the holding fix. In this case, the holding fix is not a VOR.

As a Center controller, if I'd issued this clearance, I'd expect you to fly to the fix, then start your left turn into the five mile leg. It's unusual, as I would probably send you to the VOR first, to set you up on that 090 radial, or have you join the radial at some point before the fix.

As far as item 2 goes,the holding fix should always be on the leading end of the pattern, in other words, hit the fix, start the turn, so item 2 is not valid. That's a "hold east" pattern with left turns, and it's on the wrong side of the fix.

The fix that you are using for the hold is on the 090 radial, at DME 15. You are holding east of the VORTAC, but west of the fix. Assuming you have adequate equipment to identify the fix, this is a perfectly valid clearance- there's not always going to be a VOR right where ATC would like you to hold!

Holds like this are exactly why they need to give you a direction from the fix to hold from to begin with. If you are told to hold at the VORTAC on the 090 radial, you already know that you'll be holding east from the VORTAC without being told. If you were just told to hold at the 15 DME fix on the 090 radial without a direction, that could be two different holds: should you hold east of the fix (from DME 15 to 20) or west of the fix (from DME 10 to 15)?

If you don't have a DME or a suitable RNAV replacement you cannot identify the fix and you should refuse the clearance if it is mistakenly given.

• @MichaelHall The example 2 is nonsense; see my comment above. I think this answer does address the underlying concept that drives the question.
– Ralph J
Commented Jul 17 at 12:49
• @MichaelHall As I read it, OP's question is "Is this a real situation, or is this a bad practice question?" OP doesn't ask which of the two is correct. Commented Jul 17 at 14:11
• @MichaelHall "This is a perfectly valid clearance" is meant to be an answer to that. Commented Jul 17 at 14:21