IFR Fix

Your way, or the hard way?

February 22, 2013

ifr fixIt was still early in the voting as this was being written, but a trend was emerging as to whether instrument pilots choosing between flying a parallel entry and a teardrop entry to a holding pattern preferred one method over the other. (They did.)

Remember the training-text diagrams of holding patterns and entries? They carved up the approach airspace into sectors, and showed which entry was appropriate based on the heading on which you approached the fix. A time-saving method many pilots learned on the fly was just to visualize which entry put you most efficiently on an outbound leg. That simplified matters.

Occasionally you can arrive at the holding fix on a boundary between the sectors for the two non-direct entries. A straight-out missed approach to holding on or close to the same radial as the approach procedure is an example of that scenario.

Given the choice, which would more pilots choose: teardrop or parallel?

The teardrop entry is usually a more compact method. Cross the fix, turn for a 30-degree entry within the “holding side,” and fly a minute on that heading. Turn again to capture the inbound course.

Glancing at the parallel entry tells you that it requires more time, as well as a turn across the inbound course. But that layout might give you more time to fix a blown intercept or misjudgment of the wind.

A negative of the parallel entry is that it exposes you to flying on the non-holding—or, the less protected—side of the procedure. There’s also more added maneuvering as you “turn in the direction of the holding pattern through more than 180 degrees, and return to the holding fix or intercept the holding course inbound,” as described in Chapter 10 of the Instrument Flying Handbook.

If you do arrive at the holding fix without having intercepted the inbound course, the next circuits could remain ragged until you nail down the wind effects.

Maybe that’s why early returns showed 66 percent of pilots who responded to the Feb. 15 poll question expressing preference for teardrop entries.

When you are alone in the soup, take your pick. And this is just a guess, but if you leave the decision  up to your instructor on that next proficiency flight, expect a parallel entry.

ifr fix

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.

Topics IFR, Technique