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8 Answers

Is this a “CORRECT” DME Holding Instruction?

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FAA Regulations, Flight Instructor, General Aviation, Instrument Rating

I had a CFI-I student who failed his FAA Practical test on the flight because of a DME Hold.   The Instruction was as such:   Hold North East of the 6 DME on Radial 355 from Ormond VOR.   Since the Holding turns were not specified it would Imply a Right turn but in this example it was in fact a Left hold. In the FAA order 7110 for ATC is was specified that the Controller must mention Left holds if it is not standard.   I am not saying that the failure was not fair, but I just want to get clarification.   I would appreciate if your answers came with references, thank you!

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8 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Oct 01, 2013

    Are you sure the instruction did not specify a direction of turn? Or that the applicant didn’t do something else wrong or misunderstood the instruction?

    For example, one can’t hold northeast on the 355° radial. The 355° radial is in the northwest quadrant.

    The reference you are looking for is AIM 5-3-8.i.

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  2. John D Collins on Oct 02, 2013

    I agree with Mark, I would not know the meaning of hold north east at the 6 DME 355 radial of OMN. Some pilots think that the side of the radial that the holding pattern is on is specified by the cardinal direction, it is not. The cardinal direction is to locate the position of the inbound holding leg with respect to the holding fix. In this case it can be north or south of the fix. The direction of turn is as depicted on the chart or if not depicted, it is right turns unless the controller specifies left turns.

    In this case, there are four possible locations of the holding pattern, North of the 6 DME right turns, North of the 6 DME left turns, South of the 6 DME right turns, and South of the DME left turns. Of course, right turns are assumed and not stated.

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  3. Mouhcine Souabni on Oct 02, 2013

    I am certain of the instruction because I sat down with the examiner and my student after the flight. When my student mentioned that he was mistaken in the hold because the turn was not mentioned and he assumed it to be the standard right turns then the examiner said : ” I’ve seen airline Captains mess this one up when they get such clearance in the Orlando area, It should have been obvious what turn it would be if it’s North East of the fix” , this added even more confusion to be honest but at the time I did not want to ask for clarification as my hard-working student seemed to be in a sad mood and just wanted the paperwork to be over with and leave.

    Both of your replies are correct and we all seem to be on the same page but is it possible that such clearance be given as Holding NE of a point regardless of the radial?

    Because from my understanding is that North implies that the hold be above the fix( or north of the fix) and east implies that the holding side be East of Radial 355 ( left turns would appear if drawn).

    And thank you both for your time and answers!

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  4. Best Answer


    John D Collins on Oct 02, 2013

    The DPE is incorrect, the location of the hold is North or South of the fix. The inbound leg may be found by the direction it is relative to the fix. Left and right are not determined by the cardinal direction, so North East of the fix is nonsense, it is either right turns if a direction of turn isn’t specified or left turns if that is wanted.

    If you give the matter some thought, there are three important items one needs to know when flying a hold at a fix and a holding pattern is not charted. You need to determine the fix, the direction of the turns expected, and the course you need to navigate inbound to the fix. The fix is specified unambiguously by the hold instructions. The direction of turns are as described previously, right turns is assumed and left turns will included in the clearance if left turns are required. The last important piece of information is what course is to be used for navigation inbound to the fix, IOW along what radial or bearing, this is clarified by the cardinal direction. Holding at a VOR, the inbound is the reciprocal of the radial and is found to lie along the cardinal direction or radial. At a fix, just specifying the radial is ambiguous and the side of the inbound course is determined by the cardinal direction.

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  5. ccwebb on Oct 02, 2013

    Telling a DPE they’re wrong is a tricky road, one in which all instructors will have to cross sooner or later. (Even harder when you have to educate an FAA Inspector).

    In this case, there are a few ways this can be done and not leave any doubt. One way is in the written test, go to the questions working with holds. If you try to answer these questions with the mindset that direction means where the body of the hold is, you will miss every single one of them. The only way to answer the questions correctly uses the direction to describe where the inbound leg is.

    Good luck! I had a FAA inspector who told my student that they should hurry up and get home because the low voltage light illuminated. The inspector was afraid the engine would quit.

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  6. Mark Kolber on Oct 02, 2013

    >> is it possible that such clearance be given as Holding NE of a point regardless of the radial?

    In short, no. The standard phrasing — cardinal direction of the inbound course and radial on which the inbound course is located — is there in order to avoid confusion. Both have to be the same or the instruction is not valid. DPEs can be and sometimes are wrong, as in this case.

    >>North implies that the hold be above the fix( or north of the fix) and east implies that the holding side be East of Radial 355

    Again no. There is no implication. North says that the holding radial is north of the fix. Northeast says that the holding radial is in the northeast quadrant with relatin to the fix. Neither say anything about which direction to turn.

    What to do about it? That’s a tough choice that requires knowledge of the DPE and the FSDO. Options are sitting down with the DPE again, asking to speak with an ASI about it, or avoiding the DPE in the future.

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  7. Wes Beard on Oct 02, 2013

    If this was the only thing your student failed on I would make a complaint with the FSDO. After they get the story from the examiner, they may take the failure away. You will still have to demonstrate competency with holding though.

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  8. Mouhcine Souabni on Oct 04, 2013

    Thank you all for your responses! Unfortunately Neither I , nor my student wish to report anything to the FSDO. I’ll prefer to avoid all the mess that would bring. Today is my students recheck, I’ll sit down and chat a bit with the DPE and figure this thing out.

    I’ll keep you all updated to his response.

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