Welcome Guest. Sign in or Signup

Holding Entry procedures: Teardrop vs. Parallel

Posted by on April 9, 2009 7 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog

max-trescottTodd asked the following:

“Hi, When entering a holding pattern via a radial intercept that routes you directly over the holding fix (exactly outbound on the inbound radial) should the pilot perform a teardrop or parallel entry? It seems as though either would be doable. Is one better than the other and if so…why?”

Great question Todd. I don’t know that I’ve ever read why one is better than the other, but believe it or not I have had this discussion with Doug Stewart, who I always call “04” when we talk (he calls me “08”). Doug’s the 2004 National CFI of the Year and a very smart guy. Anyone living in the northeast and looking for top-notch instrument instruction should contact him through his www.dsflight.com Web site.

Doug and I agree that when you have a choice of a teardrop entry or a parallel entry, that the teardrop is preferred. In fact, Doug likes teardrop entries so much, he does them even when FAA recommendations suggest a parallel entry. Here’s why. A teardrop entry will intercept the inbound holding course much sooner than a parallel entry. This gives you additional time to estimate any wind correction angle needed to track the holding course. You’ll want that information when you turn outbound, as most people recommend that when flying outbound you apply 3 times the amount of correction angle you required when flying inbound.

With modern moving maps and glass cockpit systems like the Garmin G1000, it’s easy to predict where you’ll intercept the holding course and whether you’ll become established before you reach the holding fix. With a parallel entry, you usually won’t become established until just about the time you reach the holding fix and need to fly outbound again. In the dark ages (e.g. before GPSs and moving maps became popular about 10 years ago), when using a parallel entry, pilots couldn’t tell for sure whether they’d even intercept the holding course before they reached the holding fix. Many a time, I failed to intercept the holding course before it was time to turn outbound again. But with a teardrop entry, that almost never happened, since you’d intercept the holding course long before you reached the holding fix.

On the other hand, people sometimes have trouble calculating the heading that they need to fly outbound to begin a teardrop entry. In that case, if the hold is coming up fast and you’re not able to figure it out, a parallel entry may be simpler, since it’s easy to figure out the initial heading to fly. Of course, I’m sure you know that there’s no regulatory requirement to fly a particular hold entry. As long as you do your maneuvering on the holding side of the hold, you can enter the hold in any way you choose.


  1. Paul on Apr 10, 2009

    Personally, I’ve always prefered teardrop entries over parallel entries for the same reasons that Max described. I like the idea of intercepting my inbound course and being established on a course. There seemed to be too much guessing with the parallel entry IMHO.

    Thanks again Max for your answer.

  2. Eric on Apr 14, 2009

    I do find that in a non-glass environment, the parallel CAN (but may not) give a pilot more information about wind and the necessary wind correction than a teardrop. Because they’re tracking the course both ways, they can get a feel for head/tail/crosswind setups early, rather than having to guess at the conditions.

    In a Garmin 400/500-series cockpit, or when flying any glass cockpit setup, the information is there and can make all of the entries very straightforward. The G1000’s direct entry technique is a good example, where it tacks on a period of wings-level flight past the holding fix before starting the (remaining) outbound turn.

  3. Jeffrey on May 19, 2009

    I agree with Eric.

    Of course in a glass cockpit it’s almost like cheating!

  4. Max Trescott on May 19, 2009

    It may seem like cheating today, but in the future, it will make things so easy that people will marvel that we ever had do something so complicated. Anything that simplifies the cockpit and gives us more time to focus on more important tasks (e.g., whether the winds are adverse and we need to stop for fuel or the weather’s deteriorating and we decide to divert to another airport sooner than later) can only enhance air safety.

  5. Paul on May 19, 2009

    I think the next advances are in engine management procedures. FADEC for all piston engines will soon be the standard not just an option. One pilot adjustable control will handle the throttle, mixture and if necessary prop. It’s already here on some aircraft, only time before all airplanes have it. Our kids will look at us funny when we say, “we used to have to control the mixture manually!”

  6. Ray on Jun 01, 2009

    It’s good that you emphasized that maneuvering must be done on the holding side. That has to be stressed. I can just see a newer pilot only taking away part of the info and rocketing off away from holding airspace.

  7. John D on Jun 18, 2013

    I know this is way old from 2009 but I’m curious. I teach my students all three and we do each accordingly when appropriate but I have found that I prefer the parallel entry both instructing and personally much better. I understand the argument for preferring teardrop but I disagree. For example, if you are direct the fix and holding on the 360, setting the 360 in the OBS can allow you to accurately track outbound before completing the entry. This allows you to accurately begin to determine wind the moment you cross the fix (if you fight to keep the needle centered). Where as the tear drop you are flying a heading and we know the student is bound to forget to set the DG, veer off heading, miscalculate the heading to fly, or just get blown by the wind into the inbound course. If you fly outbound on the radial you are going to hold on before you turn inbound you can already figure wind before the inbound course because you are trying to fly outbound holding the needle centered. Therefore as you turn to intercept inbound you can make adjustments as necessary. To me it is much more precise because you are not flying some heading lazily being blown by the wind. Just my 2 cents

Leave a Reply