I need help with this question for the IFR written test: "A pilot receives this ATC clearance: '...CLEARED TO THE XYZ VORTAC. HOLD NORTH ON THE THREE SIX ZERO RADIAL, LEFT TURNS...' What is the recommended procedure to enter the holding pattern?"

Why is the answer on the left the correct visualization? It doesn't say if I should hold left or right of the radial. Both answers are left turns. Both answers are holding north. What am I missing?

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Thank you all for your help. My 150 arrow was wrong and I was confusing myself. Also, it's helpful to know that the inbound leg terminates at the fix (which entirely makes sense now). So, my new answer is direct entry and here is my new visualization:

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2 Answers 2


Neither of the two representations show holding North if the arrow depicted in the corner is truly pointing towards 150°. If this is the case, North is at the bottom of the page and South is at the top. Therefore, both representations are showing holding South of the fix.

If the dot depicted is the fix, the representation on the left is not a holding pattern. Holding patterns have their inbound leg terminating at the fix. Your turn towards the outbound leg would then begin when crossing the fix on the outbound leg.

Furthermore, your HSI is showing that you are on the 150° To-Radial of the fix, on a 155° Heading, and a 16.5 DME. This would put your aircraft inbound, 16.5 Nautical Miles North of the fix, roughly on the 330° From-Radial (or just Radial). You should intercept the inbound leg 360° Radial of the fix well before crossing it. Then effect a Direct Entry, Performing your 5Ts Once you hit the fix with wings level.

You could, however, continue direct to the fix, inbound on the 330° Radial, and still perform a Direct Entry. I just, personally, think it’s easier to intercept the inbound (360° Radial) leg first.

Research AIM 5-3-8 for further details.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! This is very helpful. I just edited my question to post my new visualization. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2020 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ You're already on an intercept track flying the 330 radial, so a left turn to pick up the inbound track of the hold might look odd to the controller. That being said, those entry methods are just protocols for efficiency's sake; you can enter a hold any way you want as long as you stay in the protected airspace and get established on the racetrack in a reasonable time. Once you start using an FMS, the software works it out for you and you never have to figure out which one to use again. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 28, 2020 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ @John_K . . . with the caveat that you do have to interpret the holding instructions and program it into the FMS correctly, which presumably have been given as there's no database/published hold matching the instructions. $\endgroup$
    – skipper44
    Jun 19, 2021 at 20:33

The holding clearance that you have specified is invalid.


You cannot hold north of the VOR on a radial that is south of it. A correct clearance would be


Conversely, the hold that is drawn on the left is incorrect because you are turning into the holding point. You always fly a straight segment into the holding point. The arrows are backwards.

If I was given this corrected hold and flying a heading of 150°. I would end up flying a parallel entry.

The corrected hold could also be:


In this case, I would end up flying a direct entry into the hold.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ “You cannot hold north of the VOR on a radial that is south of it.” Could you clarify this statement, please. It is a little confusing. The 360° Radial of a VOR is a line with its origin at the VOR and its direction stretching Northward. Although, in application, the 360° Radial is a line stretching both North and South, with the VOR at its center. The To-From indication would determine whether the aircraft were sitting on the 360° Radial to the North (From indication) or the 180° Radial to the South (To indication). Heading and Bearing would determine whether you are facing the VOR. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Jul 27, 2020 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ If you were to look at it this way. A 360° From-Radial at 16.5 DME (5000’ MSL) is the exact same point (Lat-long) in space as a 180° To-Radial at 16.5 DME (5000’ MSL). You would be at a point on the 360° actual Radial. At that point in space, a Heading of 180° would roughly place you going towards the VOR. A Heading of 360° would roughly place you going away from the VOR. The Bearing of the VOR would be determined by whether you wanted Magnetic, Relative, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Jul 27, 2020 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I had a problem with that one too. The radial itself is the track extending from the station at that compass position. The clearance would be hold on the 360 radial, inbound track 180, left turns. I think his arrow on the sketch means he's heading towards the VOR on the 150 radial, not a 150 deg heading. I think the right sketch is correct for a hold on the 360 with left turns, and what was missing is the inbound track reference, which would eliminate the confusion (maybe done on purpose). In my opinion, the correct pattern is the right one, and the correct entry would be parallel. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 27, 2020 at 18:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JohnK - Maybe. Although, if the HSI represented is part of the question, the aircraft is on the 330° Radial with a Heading of 155 and a DME distance of 16.5. This would put him inbound to the VOR from the North by Northwest. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Jul 27, 2020 at 18:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Oops you're right I didn't even look at the HSI. Yeah you're right both those sketches are wrong. The hold should be the right diagram flipped over so the track pattern is on the lower left instead of upper right, and the entry would be direct. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jul 27, 2020 at 18:44

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