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En Route Procedures

5−3−8. Holding

a. Whenever an aircraft is cleared to a fix other

than the destination airport and delay is expected, it

is the responsibility of ATC to issue complete holding

instructions (unless the pattern is charted), an EFC

time and best estimate of any additional en

route/terminal delay.


Only those holding patterns depicted on U.S. government

or commercially produced (meeting FAA requirements)

low/high altitude en route, and area or STAR charts should

be used.

b. If the holding pattern is charted and the

controller doesn’t issue complete holding instruc-

tions, the pilot is expected to hold as depicted on the

appropriate chart. When the pattern is charted on the

assigned procedure or route being flown, ATC may

omit all holding instructions except the charted

holding direction and the statement AS PUBLISHED;


must always issue complete holding instructions

when pilots request them.

c. If no holding pattern is charted and holding

instructions have not been issued, the pilot should ask

ATC for holding instructions prior to reaching the fix.

This procedure will eliminate the possibility of an

aircraft entering a holding pattern other than that

desired by ATC. If unable to obtain holding

instructions prior to reaching the fix (due to

frequency congestion, stuck microphone, etc.), then

enter a standard pattern on the course on which the

aircraft approached the fix and request further

clearance as soon as possible. In this event, the

altitude/flight level of the aircraft at the clearance

limit will be protected so that separation will be

provided as required.

d. When an aircraft is 3 minutes or less from a

clearance limit and a clearance beyond the fix has not

been received, the pilot is expected to start a speed

reduction so that the aircraft will cross the fix,

initially, at or below the maximum holding airspeed.

e. When no delay is expected, the controller

should issue a clearance beyond the fix as soon as

possible and, whenever possible, at least 5 minutes

before the aircraft reaches the clearance limit.

f. Pilots should report to ATC the time and

altitude/flight level at which the aircraft reaches the

clearance limit and report leaving the clearance limit.


In the event of two-way communications failure, pilots are

required to comply with 14 CFR Section 91.185.

g. When holding at a VOR station, pilots should

begin the turn to the outbound leg at the time of the

first complete reversal of the to/from indicator.

h. Patterns at the most generally used holding

fixes are depicted (charted) on U.S. Government or

commercially produced (meeting FAA requirements)

Low or High Altitude En Route, Area, Departure

Procedure, and STAR Charts. Pilots are expected to

hold in the pattern depicted unless specifically

advised otherwise by ATC.


Holding patterns that protect for a maximum holding

airspeed other than the standard may be depicted by an

icon, unless otherwise depicted. The icon is a standard

holding pattern symbol (racetrack) with the airspeed

restriction shown in the center. In other cases, the airspeed

restriction will be depicted next to the standard holding

pattern symbol.


AIM, Paragraph 5−3−8 j2, 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,


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


6. Time to expect further clearance and any

pertinent additional delay information.