I left SLC (Salt Lake City) this morning heading to MCO (Orlando). On previous flights, I remember takeoff similar to other airports. We got in the air, gained altitude, and moved to our heading and left.

This time though, we seemed to circle for a while, gaining altitude. I initially assumed it was to gain enough altitude to clear the surrounding mountain. I ruled out equipment problems because we kept climbing.

Pilots who have experience with SLC, is there a certain runway that needs this altitude gain due to the terrain? Would there be another possible reason this happened?

  • $\begingroup$ Did you take off to the south or the north? There are a couple of departure procedures at KSLC that call for a hold if vectors aren't received in time... $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2015 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know which direction. $\endgroup$
    – user193673
    Mar 7, 2015 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ I found this (PDF) after @UnrecognizedFallingObject made his comment. I do see on Page L12 that SLC has some obstacle procedures. $\endgroup$
    – user193673
    Mar 7, 2015 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ However, none of the SLC ODPs involve circling (a climb-in-hold, in other words). Look at IFP (Laughlin/Bullhead Int'l) or CGZ (Casa Grande Muni) in that document for examples of a departure procedure (textual obstacle SID) that has a climb-in-hold. (There are several others as well: EKO and FLX also have this, for instance.) $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2015 at 17:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ you'll need the charted SIDs for this -- in particular, look at the SALT LAKE TWO and SEVYR ONE charted SIDs (you'll want to look at both the chart and the associated text page). $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2015 at 21:07

2 Answers 2


I would assume it was to avoid terrain, traffic and/or the restricted airspace close to the airport, but there is at least one departure procedure from KSLC that calls for a climb in the hold. The SALT LAKE TWO departure includes this:

Continue climb in TCH VORTAC holding pattern (hold south, left turn, 341° inbound)

And several other departure procedures call for climbing right or left turns; combined with a few ATC vectors that could easily give the impression of circling.

You might try looking for the actual radar track online if you search flightaware.com or a similar site for your flight. That would let you see what track you really flew.


To avoid terrain or obstacles. Admittedly, I don't know specifically which runway I took off from, making it difficult to provide a definitive answer for this specific airport.

  • $\begingroup$ There is a rather large mountain range directly east of the airport. $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2015 at 4:57

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