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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holding Patterns Have Never Been so Easy...

How do you enter a holding pattern?

The reason Evergreen hired me with low time was I knew the answer to this question. Well there was more to it than that, but they did give me a simulator check to see if I "could fly" and the results ended ended with the fact that I also knew how to enter and exit a holding pattern.

The night before the check Bo Corby taught me how to do this amazing feat, without the use of my thumbs. Most pilots were sticking their thumbs up like painting a masterpiece... angling left, then right, or drawing pictures to figure out how to enter.

How do we enter a holding pattern in the A330?

Answer: With a finger.

I suppose you could use your thumb, but it wouldn't be as graceful as using a pointer finger. Unless of course you're feeling a bit overwhelmed, overworked, or perhaps not happy with the way the check airman is conducting the simulator session, and then you could use the finger of your choice.

The point is, we now enter the holding patter in the MCDU with a press of a button, or two, and the plane does all the work.

Easy as 1, 2, 3...  
  1. Select lateral Nav (left side) on the location you want to hold over.
  2. If a holding pattern exists, cross check the hold displayed in the MCDU with the holding pattern on your chart. Edit as necessary. 
  3. Select 6R ... INSERT*
  • If no hold exists... default values: Current inbound course to the fix. Right turns. 1.5 minute legs above 14, 000 feet and 1 minute legs below 14,000 feet. 
  • We have the ability to edit direction of turn, time, distance, and the course, as necessary. 
Holding Speeds:
  • If using managed speed, airspeed will be that for the current flap configuration (Green dot, S or F)
  • If approaching the holding pattern in "selected" speed, and more than 5 knots different from computed hold speed, "SET HOLD SPEED" will be displayed on the PFD.
  • LAST  EXIT values for UTC and FUEL
  • Latest time to exit the hold. 
  • Least amount of fuel on board to exit with alternate, reserve, and extra time.
Deleting the holding pattern:
  • Prior to entering the hold: Clear the HOLD R or HOLD L waypoint. 
  • Prior to entering or during the hold, an IMM EXIT prompt is displayed. Immediate exit.
  • At anytime when you proceed direct to a waypoint.
 Selecting IMM:
  • Prior to entering hold: Plane continues on flight plan.
  • While in hold: Flight returns immediately to holding fix, then continues on flight plan. Holding pattern is erased after crossing fix. 
  • When selected, IMM is replaced with Resume hold prompt.

The moral of this story... holding is easy in the electronic plane. No need to kill perfectly good brain cells when you don't have to. But, for those who are learning to fly... get your thumbs out! Also a great technique to build hours.

Commercial/Instrument pilots in training... or anyone getting ready for a simulator check... if you want to know the easiest way to enter a holding pattern, let me know. If there's enough interest... I will share my secret. :) 

Enjoy the Journey!



    1. So interesting to learn about this kind of thing. It's making me think that the gap between flying big commercial planes and little puddle jumpers must be widening to the point that it's two different animals altogether!

    2. Linda, YES... two different animals for sure. And the focus of what we need to know completely shifts between the small planes to the airlines. But both need that animal called confidence.

    3. The things I learn here! You're expanding my mind Karlene and I love that.

    4. Expanding your mind or killing brain cells? ;)

    5. How do you do holding patterns in my lawnmower plane? I can't figure them out.

    6. Excellent Christine, I'll teach you how to do them and you can teach me lazy eights and how to land that lawnmower!

    7. on the lateral nav page, would you select enable alternate if you wanted to divert to your destination alternate, or would you use the new destination feature?

    8. Only if an alternate airport has been specified, will the ENABLE ALTN prompt appear on the LAT REV page. If it's there, that would be the best selection.

      Selecting ENABLE ALTN does the same thing as the NEW DEST field, and it does not require reentry of the airport identifier.


    Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!