Flying the Hold

October 14th, 2009

I recently read a post on the Cessna Pilot’s Society forums about a simple way to work out hold entries.

It’s a great post, fortunately somewhere on the second page someone recommended a simulator! I mean it’s great if you enjoy burning fuel to go out and test the methods in the plane, but why not get it right on the ground first?
Easiest and cheapest way to practice the hold, and the most effective to get the method right, and so make you’re practical flying.

They provide a link to a free VOR simulator tool which you can use to get an idea how to fly holds, and to determine your position relative to the indications on the VOR.

There are also some really good, cheap, IFR simulation software packages available. Microsoft Flight Sim is very nice, but it is not specifically aimed at IFR instruction. The cheaper packages which are aimed at helping pilots not gaming, may be a better solution. I remember distinctly using a program like this myself to get current for my first IFR renewal. As with the normal trap for a new IFR pilot, I had little more than an hour or two in the previous year. After putting in a number of evenings slog on the PC, really getting to know the procedures and getting my scan up with a cheap PC simulator program and a joystick, I passed the test with one prep session, and I felt confident about it. A fellow flight instructor who perhaps hadn’t thought about the concept of PC flying, walked out of the same exercise $10,000 poorer.
Many airline pilots and ‘wannabe’ airline pilots use the same method, to prep for a simulator interview, as would I if the need arises. Despite great advances in airline training, non-normal stuff is only practiced in the simulators every 3 months if you are lucky, some airlines still apply the minimum 6 months. PC flying can really help where impressions matter, especially if you are not flying much.

You can’t log it but that doesn’t mean it is not a great learning tool, and you can’t beat the cost. I find it amazing of all the students who I recommend this to, how few take it up.

Holds, despite being a simple maneuver designed primarily for a delay, are not the easiest to get right, and, on top of this, in reality holds are very seldom flown, ATC tries to avoid them when possible, so when you do have to fly one, and you are not one of the ‘lucky’ ones who gets given holds all the time, the PC flying will really pay off.

A final quote from the CPS forum by Tod Covey

“This is still a big distraction to allot of pilots, where there should not be a distraction…

The hold should be a time to compose your self, ready for your approach… Have a cup of coffee…Instead for many it puts them behind the gun. or really in front of the barrel…”

Too true!

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