Holding at GPS Waypoints

Landis

Well-Known Member
#1
I've done some searches in the forums, looked at the AIM, the P/CG, 7110.65, etc and am still confused.

The situation is what is the proper terminology to expect when being told to hold at a GPS waypoint?

The confusion comes in the exact word that is used. From 7110.65 we see that a controller should issue the "Radial, course, bearing, track, azimuth, airway, or route on which the aircraft is to hold." (7110.65T 4-6-4 c)

The controller wants the pilot to hold north of WAYPT waypoint.

Which should this be specified as:
Hold N of WAYPT on the 360 bearing from WAYPT
Hold N of WAYPT on the 180 bearing to WAYPT
Hold N of WAYPT on the 360 bearing
Hold N of WAYPT on the 180 bearing
Hold N of WAYPT on the 180 course

I'm familiar with the "Course is TO, Bearing is FROM" argument but the P/CG doesn't back that up.

BEARING- The horizontal direction to or from any point, usually measured clockwise from true north, magnetic north, or some other reference point through 360 degrees.

COURSE-
a. The intended direction of flight in the horizontal plane measured in degrees from north.

RADIAL- A magnetic bearing extending from a VOR/VORTAC/TACAN navigation facility.
So the question is: What SHOULD the controller give me when wanting me to hold due N of WAYPT waypoint?
 

Barty

Well-Known Member
#2
Technically, you track to/from a RNAV waypoint. So the most correct phraseology would likely be:

"Cleared to WAYPT, hold north on the 360 track, expect further clearance XXXX"

You are probably just as likely to be told to hold on the 360 bearing, as it doesn't come up enough that some controllers would recall that you track to/from RNAV waypoints.

Note that if the fix is included as a clearance limit (as I did above) it is not necessary to state it elsewhere in the holding instructions.
 

Landis

Well-Known Member
#3
This arose from a clearance that an instructor friend of mine received. He was told: "Hold north of WAYPT on the 360 bearing" and he didn't think that was the correct phraseology and was trying to determine whether the controller wanted him to hold NORTH of WAYPT or on the 360 bearing of WAYPT which my friend contends is the leg due SOUTH of WAYPT. (The controller wanted him north).

Two ATC specialist's at the TRACON in question, when called from home later, stated:

  • Bearing means to the station
  • The clearance given was in error and probably due to the fact that the controller was so busy…should have said “Hold north at WAYPT on the 180 degree bearing etc.”
  • The most important thing to get correct is the cardinal direction of the hold…so if the controller says hold north…make sure that you are on the northern side of the fix.

I'm still confused about the use of the word bearing without the FROM/TO modifier. A RELATIVE bearing is from you to another point (therefore TO) but a bearing, as defined to us, could be from OR to.

Technically, you track to/from a RNAV waypoint. So the most correct phraseology would likely be:

"Cleared to WAYPT, hold north on the 360 track, expect further clearance XXXX"
I hadn't even thought of the word Track in this context and it sure seems to be correct to me, however.... The P/CG basically defines Track to equal Course. So great, now it's getting more confusing.
 

Barty

Well-Known Member
#4
Your friend's assumption would be correct if he was referring to the bearing from the aircraft itself. However, in the case of holding instructions, you are being given a bearing from another point of reference.

I'll ask one of my instructors tomorrow and get their .02 on it. One of them is probably one of the most knowledgeable people on aviation in general at ZME.
 

FM_Weasel

Well-Known Member
#5
I had this situation a few weeks ago and confused myself, and probably the pilot. After reviewing the AIM and the 7110.65, it seems that if we're not going to issue a radial (which of course is a fixed line off a navaide), then the "heading/bearing/whatever" issued is to be the INBOUND heading on the hold. This wasn't intuitive to me at first and I'd like to see what pilots think of this.

For example:

HOLD North of WAYPT HEADING/BEARING 360, 1-0 MILE LEGS.

This makes sense in my head but this seems to contradict itself according to our publications. If the INBOUND heading on the hold is to be 360, then you can't very well be holding NORTH of WAYPT then can you? In my example, the pilot ended up holding south of WAYPT, but everything else was flown as I imagined.

After reviewing the pubs, it seems a more appropriate instruction would be:

HOLD North of WAYPT HEADING/BEARING 180, 1-0 MILE LEGS.

Does this make sense to you experienced pilots, and is this how you would expect to receive a holding instruction off a fix?

Of course the easiest thing to do would be to send you to point that has a chart published hold on it and say "HOLD AS PUBLISHED," but we not always about making things easy :)
 

Landis

Well-Known Member
#6
I had this situation a few weeks ago and confused myself, and probably the pilot. After reviewing the AIM and the 7110.65, it seems that if we're not going to issue a radial (which of course is a fixed line off a navaide), then the "heading/bearing/whatever" issued is to be the INBOUND heading on the hold. This wasn't intuitive to me at first and I'd like to see what pilots think of this.
It's not intuitive to me at all, but this is why I'm posting. Can you cite for me where in the AIM or 7110.65 that the hold should specify the pilot's INBOUND heading in the hold? It's written so many different ways that I'm just not sure about anything anymore.
 

MidlifeFlyer

Well-Known Member
#7
I had this situation a few weeks ago and confused myself, and probably the pilot. After reviewing the AIM and the 7110.65, it seems that if we're not going to issue a radial (which of course is a fixed line off a navaide), then the "heading/bearing/whatever" issued is to be the INBOUND heading on the hold. This wasn't intuitive to me at first and I'd like to see what pilots think of this.
I think that radial v. bearing is one of the more misunderstood concepts, probably as part of the general mental rejection of NDB procedures by a lot of pilots. Add that to the general difficulty a lot of pilot have in visualizing holds, and you have a real mess.

One problem is that "bearing" can mean either two or from and that it's going to cause confusion unless that "to" to "from" is used along with it.

The "north" in each of your examples "should" be enough. The addition of "to" or "from" "should" clear up any remaining confusion.

HOLD North of WAYPT HEADING/BEARING 360 TO THE WAYPOINT, 1-0 MILE LEGS.

or

HOLD North of WAYPT HEADING/BEARING 180 FROM THE WAYPOINT, 1-0 MILE LEGS.
The problem is that given pilot difficulties with holds (and IMO the way holds are often taught to begin with), the confusion will be there.
 

Landis

Well-Known Member
#8
One problem is that "bearing" can mean either two or from and that it's going to cause confusion unless that "to" to "from" is used along with it.

The "north" in each of your examples "should" be enough. The addition of "to" or "from" "should" clear up any remaining confusion.
Agreed.

HOLD North of WAYPT HEADING/BEARING 360 TO THE WAYPOINT, 1-0 MILE LEGS.

or

HOLD North of WAYPT HEADING/BEARING 180 FROM THE WAYPOINT, 1-0 MILE LEGS.
Uh-oh. You lost me on those. I'm thinking you've got 'em reversed.

  • Hold N of WAYPT Heading/Bearing 180 TO WAYPT, 1-0 mile legs OR
  • Hold N of WAYPT Heading/Bearing 360 FROM WAYPT, 1-0 mile legs.
And the above is a prime example of why I bring this up and am looking for the "USE THIS TERMINOLOGY AT ALL TIMES" answer.
 

MidlifeFlyer

Well-Known Member
#9
Yes. You're right. I got them reversed. My excuse (and I'm sticking to it ;) ) is that I wasn't paying attention to what I was writing, but it does illustrate the problem.

Have you though of "course" or "track"? Especially with GPS, track is meaningful and it avoids the bearing language that has always had a consistency problem.
 

FM_Weasel

Well-Known Member
#10
It's not intuitive to me at all, but this is why I'm posting. Can you cite for me where in the AIM or 7110.65 that the hold should specify the pilot's INBOUND heading in the hold? It's written so many different ways that I'm just not sure about anything anymore.
7110.65 4-6-4 Holding Instructions:

When issuing holding instructions, specify:
a. Direction of holding from the fix/waypoint.
b. Holding fix or waypoint.

NOTE

The holding fix may be omitted if included at the beginning
of the transmission as the clearance limit.


c. Radial, course, bearing, track, azimuth, airway,
or route on which the aircraft is to hold.

d. Leg length in miles if DME or RNAV is to be
used. Specify leg length in minutes if the pilot
requests it or you consider it necessary.

e. Direction of holding pattern turns only if left
turns are to be made, the pilot requests it, or you
consider it necessary.

PHRASEOLOGY
HOLD (direction) OF (fix/waypoint) ON (specified radial,
course, bearing, track, airway, azimuth(s), or route.)

If leg length is specified,
(number of minutes/miles) MINUTE/MILE LEG.

If direction of turn is specified,
LEFT/RIGHT TURNS.

NOTE
It is mandatory for the controller to issue left or right turns
every time a holding pattern is issued for MLS.

f. Issue maximum holding airspeed advisories
when an aircraft is:
1. Approved to exceed the maximum airspeed
of a pattern, and is cleared into a holding pattern that
will protect for the greater speed; or

2. Observed deviating from the holding pattern
airspace area; or

3. Cleared into an airspeed restricted holding
pattern in which the icon has not been published.


So after we specify the direction from the fix to hold from, our manual doesn't specify exactly what heading/bearing a pilot is expecting to hear from us. Is it the heading they'll be flying inbound to the fix? Or is it the heading they'll be flying outbound from the fix? The AIM offers some suggestion from the pilot's perspective, which coincides with what I experienced when a conflicting hold instruction was given ("Hold north heading 360):

AIM 5-3-7 Holding

i. An ATC clearance requiring an aircraft to hold
at a fix where the pattern is not charted will include
the following information: (See FIG 5−3−2.)

1. Direction of holding from the fix in terms of
the eight cardinal compass points (i.e., N, NE, E, SE,
etc.).

2. Holding fix (the fix may be omitted if
included at the beginning of the transmission as the
clearance limit).

3. Radial, course, bearing, airway or route on
which the aircraft is to hold.

4. Leg length in miles if DME or RNAV is to be
used (leg length will be specified in minutes on pilot
request or if the controller considers it necessary).

5. Direction of turn if left turns are to be made,
the pilot requests, or the controller considers it
necessary.

6. Time to expect further clearance and any
pertinent additional delay information.

So at this time I'm sort of losing track of how this all came about, because it's not clear to me from reading this. I'll review it with my instructor and get back with you. Something in there implied the heading/bearing to hold was the inbound heading, and I'm not seeing that now. I'm gonna blame that on tiredness.
 

FM_Weasel

Well-Known Member
#11
I remember how we figured this now (just needed sleep).

On Figure 5-3-3 in the AIM, just past the last section I quoted, it shows the "holding course" is the part of the hold that's flown as the inbound leg. When this is a radial, it's simple because we're designating a specific ground track to hold on. When it's a heading/bearing (the .65 doesn't actually say "heading" but it does say "track") then I would think that the aircraft would fly inbound on a heading that's actually the reciprocal of what we think it should be.

So the examples Landis provided above are more like what I think should be issued, even though it seems backwards to me. However, Landis's examples also have some extra words in them that aren't in the .65. We don't specify "to" or "from." Maybe it'd make things easier from a comprehension standpoint, but I think we're all looking for a standard way that coincides with our .65 and the pilot's expectation.
 
#12
Hi everybody,
I had the same confusion with Radial and Bearing. However, this is my explanation and how I differentiate between them. Now when we talk about RADIAL we are ONLY talking about VOR we can not mix things up and trying to expect a Holding Instruction with a RADIAL in a GPS waypoint when radials are only for VOR.

In the case of GPS waypoint we talk about Bearings. Bearing is always to the station or the heading where we are flying to.
Now the confusion comes when the controllers give instruction like "BEARING FROM" which in VOR terms thats the Radial.

The correct instruction in my opinion would be:
  • Hold N of WAYPT BEARING 180, 1-0 mile legs (Its Understood Bearing is TO)
  • Hold N of WAYPT BEARING 360 FROM (Which is the same instruction and is telling you that you will hold pointing or flying to 180 in your inbound leg, but N of WAYPT in the "RADIAL 360", 1-0 mile legs.
Now one of the most important thing,s as some of you already posted is to know the WHERE THE HOLD IS GOING TO BE LOCATED IN RELATION TO THE GPS WAYPOINT. HOLD N, S, E, W of the WAYPT. Next the Bearing or radial will actually make sense.

I am not sure if the explanation was clear enough. But hope it make sense
 

MidlifeFlyer

Well-Known Member
#13
Hi everybody,
I had the same confusion with Radial and Bearing. However, this is my explanation and how I differentiate between them. Now when we talk about RADIAL we are ONLY talking about VOR we can not mix things up and trying to expect a Holding Instruction with a RADIAL in a GPS waypoint when radials are only for VOR.

In the case of GPS waypoint we talk about Bearings. Bearing is always to the station or the heading where we are flying to.
Now the confusion comes when the controllers give instruction like "BEARING FROM" which in VOR terms thats the Radial.

The correct instruction in my opinion would be:
  • Hold N of WAYPT BEARING 180, 1-0 mile legs (Its Understood Bearing is TO)
  • Hold N of WAYPT BEARING 360 FROM (Which is the same instruction and is telling you that you will hold pointing or flying to 180 in your inbound leg, but N of WAYPT in the "RADIAL 360", 1-0 mile legs.
Now one of the most important thing,s as some of you already posted is to know the WHERE THE HOLD IS GOING TO BE LOCATED IN RELATION TO THE GPS WAYPOINT. HOLD N, S, E, W of the WAYPT. Next the Bearing or radial will actually make sense.

I am not sure if the explanation was clear enough. But hope it make sense
It does. Here's my shortened version.

A holding instruction starts with language which tells you where the course lies relative to the holding fix, clearing up any confusion over the use of "bearing" from or to.

The ATC Handbook is pretty broad: "Radial, course, bearing, track, azimuth, airway, or route on which the aircraft is to hold."
 
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cmac88

Well-Known Member
#14
I have always used course for GPS waypoints. My favorite is to just say inbound course but I have always stated the course from the waypoint for what I want but I agree that the most important thing is direction relative to the fix. At least 1 out of 5 times I state a specific course a pilot does something different. Just expect it at this point
 

trafficinsight

Well-Known Member
#16
So I had something interesting happen recently along these lines that I've been wondering about...

Approaching the west coast from points east we were initially given a descent clearance on our assigned arrival. A couple seconds later we got "cancel the descent clearance, maintain FL320, proceed direct (fix a ways off shore) and expect holding instructions.

Okay... The wheels must have just come off...

So we are direct to the fix on a generally west southwest heading and receive the holding instructions "direct FIX, hold southwest on the inbound course, left turns, 15 mile legs, maintain FL320, EFC like eleventy hours from now."

I start to work that out but... It doesn't quite make sense. Now I'll admit holding isn't something we do very often so I might be out of practice and wrong about this but:

Direct to the fix on a southwesterly heading and holding on the inbound course with left turns would be holding southeast of the fix, would it not?

So in my head I've got some possibilities, the cardinal direction is wrong, the intended course is wrong and/or the direction of turns is wrong and whatever combinations of the three. I suspect the cardinal direction is wrong, so I go to ask about it.

Suddenly the frequency is completely jammed and when I ask all the controller does is repeat the instructions and now I can't get a word in. We're approaching the fix, my mouth is getting dry, captain is no help, and I haven't even addressed the fact that our EFC is like tenty hours past our fuel state.

Luckily just prior to the fix we get a vector toward final.

So, friends, Romans, controller types... Am I an idiot and have a fundamental flaw in my reasoning and caused that problem for myself? Or was it a rough evening for the controller?

Never did find out why the wheels came off. Went on vacation instead.

Sent from my Moto Z (2) using Tapatalk
 

Landis

Well-Known Member
#17
Direct to the fix on a southwesterly heading and holding on the inbound course with left turns would be holding southeast of the fix, would it not?
If heading SW toward the holding fix and instructed to hold on the inbound course the reciprocal of SW would be NE (not SE) but it's good to see that 8 years later this holding instructions thing is still an area of confusion from pilots and controllers alike. And thank goodness for delay vectors.... :)
 

trafficinsight

Well-Known Member
#18
If heading SW toward the holding fix and instructed to hold on the inbound course the reciprocal of SW would be NE (not SE) but it's good to see that 8 years later this holding instructions thing is still an area of confusion from pilots and controllers alike. And thank goodness for delay vectors.... :)
Maybe that's what I meant, Either way it's not southwest, right? ;)

I hadn't realized it was a necropost

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Stinger

Well-Known Member
#19
So we are direct to the fix on a generally west southwest heading and receive the holding instructions "direct FIX, hold southwest on the inbound course, left turns, 15 mile legs, maintain FL320, EFC like eleventy hours from now."
Inbound course from what? Your current course direct to the fix?
My initial thought is he wanted you to cross the fix, turn southwest, and enter holding so your inbound heading in the hold to the FIX would be a 045 (225 radial from the FIX). Left turns and you'd be southwest of the fix.
 

trafficinsight

Well-Known Member
#20
Inbound course from what? Your current course direct to the fix?
My initial thought is he wanted you to cross the fix, turn southwest, and enter holding so your inbound heading in the hold to the FIX would be a 045 (225 radial from the FIX). Left turns and you'd be southwest of the fix.
"the inbound course" word for word, which to me means fly to the fix and turn left.

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