My thought would be that the controller wanted you to maintain current heading directly to the fix then continue exact same heading past fix so you were holding on the southwest side of the fix. Then use the reciprocal of your initial heading as your inbound heading whatever that was after your entry turn. I agree the instructions are kinda weird but if they were busy then they just didn’t want to mess with figuring out your exact course at the time and just gave you a cardinal direction hoping you understood.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.
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Reason it would be southwest of the fix in my mind would make the most sense, since you said you were pretty far off the coast and my guess is you needed to come back to the East at sometime to land. It wouldn’t make any sense to hold you on a Westerly inbound heading in the hold then send you back East after it. The controller was using it to course reverse you. Unless wherever they were sending you next had a relatively Westerly heading in which I have no explanation.
I always use the cardinal direction as my outbound heading. If they say I messed up then I would always have that as my backup. Cardinal direction never leads me wrong. If they stated wrong then its on them.