Flight Redemptions

What is HLD in Aviation? (Hold)

Updated: February 28, 2024

The Importance of Holding in Aviation

In the world of aviation, there are numerous terms and abbreviations that pilots and air traffic controllers use to communicate and ensure the safety and efficiency of flights. One such term is hold, or HLD for short. Holding plays a crucial role in managing air traffic and maintaining separation between aircraft. In this article, we will explore the significance of holding in aviation and how it is implemented in various scenarios.

The Purpose of Holding

When air traffic controllers encounter a situation where an aircraft cannot proceed directly to its destination due to congestion, weather conditions, or other factors, they may instruct the pilot to enter a holding pattern. Holding patterns are predetermined paths in the sky that allow aircraft to remain within a designated area while awaiting clearance to proceed.

The primary purpose of holding is to maintain proper spacing between aircraft, ensuring safe separation and preventing collisions. By requiring aircraft to enter a holding pattern, air traffic controllers can effectively manage traffic flow and prevent congestion at airports or in busy airspace. It allows controllers to sequence aircraft for landing or manage the flow of arrivals into a congested area.

Additionally, holding is often used to manage delays caused by adverse weather conditions. When a storm or other hazardous weather is affecting a particular region, air traffic controllers may put aircraft into a holding pattern until conditions improve. This helps to avoid flying through dangerous weather and ensures the safety of both passengers and crew.

Implementing a Holding Pattern

When an aircraft is instructed to enter a holding pattern, the pilot must follow a specific set of procedures to ensure smooth execution. The process typically involves the following steps:

The pilot receives instructions from air traffic control to enter a holding pattern and is given the details of the holding pattern, including its location, altitude, and the direction in which to turn.
The pilot calculates the entry point into the holding pattern, taking into account factors such as the aircraft's speed, wind direction, and the desired time to spend in the hold.
Upon reaching the entry point, the pilot initiates the holding pattern by making the specified turn and maintaining the designated altitude.
The pilot continues to fly the holding pattern until cleared by air traffic control to leave the hold and proceed to the destination.

It is crucial for pilots to adhere to the instructions provided by air traffic control and maintain proper communication throughout the holding process. This ensures that all aircraft within the holding pattern are aware of each other's position and can maintain the required separation.

Types of Holding Patterns

Holding patterns can be categorized into two main types: standard and non-standard.

Standard Holding Patterns

Standard holding patterns are predetermined and published in aeronautical charts. They are designed to be easily understood and widely recognized by pilots and air traffic controllers. Standard holding patterns are typically assigned based on the direction of the inbound track to the holding fix, which is the point where the aircraft starts the holding pattern. The most common types of standard holding patterns are:

Direct Entry: In a direct entry, the aircraft flies directly to the holding fix, makes a 180-degree turn in the holding direction, and follows the specified legs of the holding pattern.
Parallel Entry: In a parallel entry, the aircraft flies parallel to the inbound track until reaching a point where it can turn into the holding pattern.
Teardrop Entry: In a teardrop entry, the aircraft flies to a point just before the holding fix, makes a 30-degree turn away from the holding side, continues for a specified distance, and then makes a 210-degree turn to intercept the holding pattern.

Standard holding patterns are crucial for maintaining order and ensuring consistent procedures in the aviation industry. They provide a common framework that pilots and air traffic controllers can rely on, regardless of the specific location or circumstances.

Non-Standard Holding Patterns

Non-standard holding patterns, as the name suggests, deviate from the standard published patterns. They are typically assigned when there is a need to create a holding pattern on short notice or in a non-standard location. Non-standard holding patterns may be used due to airspace restrictions, temporary obstructions, or other factors that require a customized solution.

Unlike standard holding patterns, non-standard patterns are not published on charts and may vary depending on the specific situation. Pilots must rely on the instructions provided by air traffic control to navigate these non-standard holds and ensure the safety of their flight.


Holding, or HLD, is a fundamental concept in aviation that ensures the safe and efficient flow of air traffic. By implementing holding patterns, air traffic controllers can manage congestion, maintain proper spacing between aircraft, and mitigate the impact of adverse weather conditions. Pilots play a vital role in executing these holding patterns, following the instructions provided by air traffic control and communicating effectively throughout the process.

Whether it's a standard holding pattern published on aeronautical charts or a non-standard pattern specifically designed for a unique situation, holding is a crucial tool in the aviation industry. It allows for the orderly management of air traffic and helps maintain the highest standards of safety in the skies.

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