Section 3. En Route Procedures
5-3-1. ARTCC Communications
a. Direct Communications, Controllers and
1. ARTCCs are capable of direct communications with IFR air traffic on certain frequencies.
Maximum communications coverage is possible
through the use of Remote Center Air/Ground
(RCAG) sites comprised of both VHF and UHF
transmitters and receivers. These sites are located
throughout the U.S. Although they may be several
hundred miles away from the ARTCC, they are
remoted to the various ARTCCs by land lines or
microwave links. Since IFR operations are expedited
through the use of direct communications, pilots are
requested to use these frequencies strictly for
communications pertinent to the control of IFR
aircraft. Flight plan filing, en route weather, weather
forecasts, and similar data should be requested
through FSSs, company radio, or appropriate military
facilities capable of performing these services.
2. An ARTCC is divided into sectors. Each
sector is handled by one or a team of controllers and
has its own sector discrete frequency. As a flight
progresses from one sector to another, the pilot is
requested to change to the appropriate sector discrete
3. Controller Pilot Data Link Communications
(CPDLC) is a system that supplements air/ground
voice communications. As a result, it expands
two-way air traffic control air/ground communications capabilities. Consequently, the air traffic
system's operational capacity is increased and any
associated air traffic delays become minimized. A
related safety benefit is that pilot/controller read-back and hear-back errors will be significantly
reduced. The CPDLC's principal operating criteria
(a) Voice remains the primary and controlling
air/ground communications means.
(b) Participating aircraft will need to have the
appropriate CPDLC avionics equipment in order to
receive uplink or transmit downlink messages.
(c) CPDLC Build 1 offers four ATC data link
services. These are altimeter setting (AS), transfer of
communications (TC), initial contact (IC), and menu
text messages (MT).
(1) Altimeter settings are usually transmitted automatically when a CPDLC session and
eligibility has been established with an aircraft. A
controller may also manually send an altimeter
When conducting instrument approach procedures, pilots
are responsible to obtain and use the appropriate altimeter
setting in accordance with 14 CFR Section 97.20. CPDLC
issued altimeter settings are excluded for this purpose.
(2) Initial contact is a safety validation
transaction that compares a pilot's initiated altitude
downlink message with an aircraft's ATC host
computer stored altitude. If an altitude mismatch is
detected, the controller will verbally provide
(3) Transfer of communications automatically establishes data link contact with a succeeding
(4) Menu text transmissions are scripted
nontrajectory altering uplink messages.
Initial use of CPDLC will be at the Miami Air Route Traffic
Control Center (ARTCC). Air carriers will be the first
users. Subsequently, CPDLC will be made available to all
NAS users. Later versions will include trajectory altering
services and expanded clearance and advisory message
b. ATC Frequency Change Procedures.
1. The following phraseology will be used by
controllers to effect a frequency change:
(Aircraft identification) contact (facility name or location
name and terminal function) (frequency) at (time, fix, or
Pilots are expected to maintain a listening watch on the
transferring controller's frequency until the time, fix, or
altitude specified. ATC will omit frequency change
restrictions whenever pilot compliance is expected upon
2. The following phraseology should be utilized
by pilots for establishing contact with the designated
(a) When operating in a radar environment:
On initial contact, the pilot should inform the
controller of the aircraft's assigned altitude preceded
by the words “level,” or “climbing to,” or
“descending to,” as appropriate; and the aircraft's
present vacating altitude, if applicable.
1. (Name) CENTER, (aircraft identification), LEVEL
(altitude or flight level).
2. (Name) CENTER, (aircraft identification), LEAVING
(exact altitude or flight level), CLIMBING TO OR
DESCENDING TO (altitude of flight level).
Exact altitude or flight level means to the nearest 100 foot
increment. Exact altitude or flight level reports on initial
contact provide ATC with information required prior to
using Mode C altitude information for separation
(b) When operating in a nonradar environment:
(1) On initial contact, the pilot should
inform the controller of the aircraft's present position,
altitude and time estimate for the next reporting point.
(Name) CENTER, (aircraft identification), (position),
(altitude), ESTIMATING (reporting point) AT (time).
(2) After initial contact, when a position
report will be made, the pilot should give the
controller a complete position report.
(Name) CENTER, (aircraft identification), (position),
(time), (altitude), (type of flight plan), (ETA and name of
next reporting point), (the name of the next succeeding
reporting point), AND (remarks).
AIM, Position Reporting, Paragraph 5-3-2.
3. At times controllers will ask pilots to verify
that they are at a particular altitude. The phraseology
used will be: “VERIFY AT (altitude).” In climbing or
descending situations, controllers may ask pilots to
“VERIFY ASSIGNED ALTITUDE AS (altitude).”
Pilots should confirm that they are at the altitude
stated by the controller or that the assigned altitude is
correct as stated. If this is not the case, they should
inform the controller of the actual altitude being
maintained or the different assigned altitude.
Pilots should not take action to change their actual
altitude or different assigned altitude to the altitude stated
in the controllers verification request unless the
controller specifically authorizes a change.
c. ARTCC Radio Frequency Outage. ARTCCs
normally have at least one back‐up radio receiver and
transmitter system for each frequency, which can
usually be placed into service quickly with little or no
disruption of ATC service. Occasionally, technical
problems may cause a delay but switchover seldom
takes more than 60 seconds. When it appears that the
outage will not be quickly remedied, the ARTCC will
usually request a nearby aircraft, if there is one, to
switch to the affected frequency to broadcast
communications instructions. It is important, therefore, that the pilot wait at least 1 minute before
deciding that the ARTCC has actually experienced a
radio frequency failure. When such an outage does
occur, the pilot should, if workload and equipment
capability permit, maintain a listening watch on the
affected frequency while attempting to comply with
the following recommended communications
1. If two‐way communications cannot be
established with the ARTCC after changing frequencies, a pilot should attempt to recontact the
transferring controller for the assignment of an
alternative frequency or other instructions.
2. When an ARTCC radio frequency failure
occurs after two‐way communications have been
established, the pilot should attempt to reestablish
contact with the center on any other known ARTCC
frequency, preferably that of the next responsible
sector when practicable, and ask for instructions.
However, when the next normal frequency change
along the route is known to involve another ATC
facility, the pilot should contact that facility, if
feasible, for instructions. If communications cannot
be reestablished by either method, the pilot is
expected to request communications instructions
from the FSS appropriate to the route of flight.
The exchange of information between an aircraft and an
ARTCC through an FSS is quicker than relay via company
radio because the FSS has direct interphone lines to the
responsible ARTCC sector. Accordingly, when circumstances dictate a choice between the two, during an
ARTCC frequency outage, relay via FSS radio is
5-3-2. Position Reporting
The safety and effectiveness of traffic control
depends to a large extent on accurate position
reporting. In order to provide the proper separation
and expedite aircraft movements, ATC must be able
to make accurate estimates of the progress of every
aircraft operating on an IFR flight plan.
a. Position Identification.
1. When a position report is to be made passing
a VOR radio facility, the time reported should be the
time at which the first complete reversal of the
“to/from” indicator is accomplished.
2. When a position report is made passing a
facility by means of an airborne ADF, the time
reported should be the time at which the indicator
makes a complete reversal.
3. When an aural or a light panel indication is
used to determine the time passing a reporting point,
such as a fan marker, Z marker, cone of silence or
intersection of range courses, the time should be
noted when the signal is first received and again when
it ceases. The mean of these two times should then be
taken as the actual time over the fix.
4. If a position is given with respect to distance
and direction from a reporting point, the distance and
direction should be computed as accurately as
5. Except for terminal area transition purposes,
position reports or navigation with reference to aids
not established for use in the structure in which flight
is being conducted will not normally be required by
b. Position Reporting Points. CFRs require
pilots to maintain a listening watch on the appropriate
frequency and, unless operating under the provisions
of subparagraph c, to furnish position reports passing
certain reporting points. Reporting points are
indicated by symbols on en route charts. The
designated compulsory reporting point symbol is a
and the “on request” reporting
point symbol is the open triangle
passing an “on request” reporting point are only
necessary when requested by ATC.
c. Position Reporting Requirements.
1. Flights along airways or routes. A position
report is required by all flights regardless of altitude,
including those operating in accordance with an ATC
clearance specifying “VFR-on-top,” over each
designated compulsory reporting point along the
route being flown.
2. Flights Along a Direct Route. Regardless
of the altitude or flight level being flown, including
flights operating in accordance with an ATC
clearance specifying “VFR-on-top,” pilots must
report over each reporting point used in the flight plan
to define the route of flight.
3. Flights in a Radar Environment. When
informed by ATC that their aircraft are in “Radar
Contact,” pilots should discontinue position reports
over designated reporting points. They should
resume normal position reporting when ATC advises
“RADAR CONTACT LOST” or “RADAR SERVICE
ATC will inform pilots that they are in “radar contact”:
(a) when their aircraft is initially identified in the ATC
(b) when radar identification is reestablished after
radar service has been terminated or radar contact lost.
Subsequent to being advised that the controller has
established radar contact, this fact will not be repeated to
the pilot when handed off to another controller. At times,
the aircraft identity will be confirmed by the receiving
controller; however, this should not be construed to mean
that radar contact has been lost. The identity of
transponder equipped aircraft will be confirmed by asking
the pilot to “ident,” “squawk standby,” or to change codes.
Aircraft without transponders will be advised of their
position to confirm identity. In this case, the pilot is
expected to advise the controller if in disagreement with the
position given. Any pilot who cannot confirm the accuracy
of the position given because of not being tuned to the
NAVAID referenced by the controller, should ask for
another radar position relative to the tuned in NAVAID.
d. Position Report Items:
1. Position reports should include the following items:
(d) Altitude or flight level (include actual
altitude or flight level when operating on a clearance
(e) Type of flight plan (not required in IFR
position reports made directly to ARTCCs or
(f) ETA and name of next reporting point;
(g) The name only of the next succeeding
reporting point along the route of flight; and
(h) Pertinent remarks.
5-3-3. Additional Reports
a. The following reports should be made to
ATC or FSS facilities without a specific ATC
1. At all times.
(a) When vacating any previously assigned
altitude or flight level for a newly assigned altitude or
(b) When an altitude change will be made if
operating on a clearance specifying VFR-on-top.
(c) When unable to climb/descend at a rate of
a least 500 feet per minute.
(d) When approach has been missed.
(Request clearance for specific action; i.e., to
alternative airport, another approach, etc.)
(e) Change in the average true airspeed (at
cruising altitude) when it varies by 5 percent or
10 knots (whichever is greater) from that filed in the
(f) The time and altitude or flight level upon
reaching a holding fix or point to which cleared.
(g) When leaving any assigned holding fix or
The reports in subparagraphs (f) and (g) may be omitted by
pilots of aircraft involved in instrument training at military
terminal area facilities when radar service is being
(h) Any loss, in controlled airspace, of VOR,
TACAN, ADF, low frequency navigation receiver
capability, GPS anomalies while using installed
IFR-certified GPS/GNSS receivers, complete or
partial loss of ILS receiver capability or impairment
of air/ground communications capability. Reports
should include aircraft identification, equipment
affected, degree to which the capability to operate
under IFR in the ATC system is impaired, and the
nature and extent of assistance desired from ATC.
1. Other equipment installed in an aircraft may effectively
impair safety and/or the ability to operate under IFR. If
such equipment (e.g., airborne weather radar) malfunctions and in the pilot's judgment either safety or IFR
capabilities are affected, reports should be made as above.
2. When reporting GPS anomalies, include the location
and altitude of the anomaly. Be specific when describing
the location and include duration of the anomaly if
(i) Any information relating to the safety of
2. When not in radar contact.
(a) When leaving final approach fix inbound
on final approach (nonprecision approach) or when
leaving the outer marker or fix used in lieu of the outer
marker inbound on final approach (precision
(b) A corrected estimate at anytime it
becomes apparent that an estimate as previously
submitted is in error in excess of 3 minutes. For
flights in the North Atlantic (NAT), a revised
estimate is required if the error is 3 minutes or more.
b. Pilots encountering weather conditions which
have not been forecast, or hazardous conditions
which have been forecast, are expected to forward a
report of such weather to ATC.
AIM, Pilot Weather Reports (PIREPs), Paragraph 7-1-20.
14 CFR Section 91.183(B) and (C).
5-3-4. Airways and Route Systems
a. Three fixed route systems are established for air
navigation purposes. They are the Federal airway
system (consisting of VOR and L/MF routes), the jet
route system, and the RNAV route system. To the
extent possible, these route systems are aligned in an
overlying manner to facilitate transition between
1. The VOR and L/MF (nondirectional radio
beacons) Airway System consists of airways
designated from 1,200 feet above the surface (or in
some instances higher) up to but not including 18,000
feet MSL. These airways are depicted on IFR Enroute
Low Altitude Charts.
The altitude limits of a victor airway should not be
exceeded except to effect transition within or between route
(a) Except in Alaska, the VOR airways are:
predicated solely on VOR or VORTAC navigation
aids; depicted in black on aeronautical charts; and
identified by a “V” (Victor) followed by the airway
number (for example, V12).
Segments of VOR airways in Alaska are based on L/MF
navigation aids and charted in brown instead of black on
en route charts.
(1) A segment of an airway which is
common to two or more routes carries the numbers of
all the airways which coincide for that segment.
When such is the case, pilots filing a flight plan need
to indicate only that airway number for the route filed.
A pilot who intends to make an airway flight, using VOR
facilities, will simply specify the appropriate “victor”
airway(s) in the flight plan. For example, if a flight is to be
made from Chicago to New Orleans at 8,000 feet, using
omniranges only, the route may be indicated as “departing
from Chicago-Midway, cruising 8,000 feet via Victor 9 to
Moisant International.” If flight is to be conducted in part
by means of L/MF navigation aids and in part on
omniranges, specifications of the appropriate airways in
the flight plan will indicate which types of facilities will be
used along the described routes, and, for IFR flight, permit
ATC to issue a traffic clearance accordingly. A route may
also be described by specifying the station over which the
flight will pass, but in this case since many VORs and L/MF
aids have the same name, the pilot must be careful to
indicate which aid will be used at a particular location.
This will be indicated in the route of flight portion of the
flight plan by specifying the type of facility to be used after
the location name in the following manner: Newark L/MF,
(2) With respect to position reporting,
reporting points are designated for VOR Airway
Systems. Flights using Victor Airways will report
over these points unless advised otherwise by ATC.
(b) The L/MF airways (colored airways) are
predicated solely on L/MF navigation aids and are
depicted in brown on aeronautical charts and are
identified by color name and number (e.g., Amber
One). Green and Red airways are plotted east and
west. Amber and Blue airways are plotted north and
Except for G13 in North Carolina, the colored airway
system exists only in the state of Alaska. All other such
airways formerly so designated in the conterminous U.S.
have been rescinded.
use of TSO-C145 (as revised) or TSO-C146 (as revised) GPS/WAAS navigation
systems is allowed in Alaska as the only means of navigation on published air
traffic service (ATS) routes, including those Victor, T-Routes, and colored
airway segments designated with a second minimum en route altitude (MEA)
depicted in blue and followed by the letter G at those lower altitudes. The
altitudes so depicted are below the minimum reception altitude (MRA) of the
land-based navigation facility defining the route segment, and guarantee
standard en route obstacle clearance and two-way communications. Air carrier
operators requiring operations specifications are authorized to conduct
operations on those routes in accordance with FAA operations specifications.
2. The jet route system consists of jet routes
established from 18,000 feet MSL to FL 450
(a) These routes are depicted on Enroute
High Altitude Charts. Jet routes are depicted in black
on aeronautical charts and are identified by a “J” (Jet)
followed by the airway number (e.g., J12). Jet routes,
as VOR airways, are predicated solely on VOR or
VORTAC navigation facilities (except in Alaska).
Segments of jet routes in Alaska are based on L/MF
navigation aids and are charted in brown color instead of
black on en route charts.
(b) With respect to position reporting,
reporting points are designated for jet route systems.
Flights using jet routes will report over these points
unless otherwise advised by ATC.
3. Area Navigation (RNAV) Routes.
RNAV routes, including Q-Routes and T-Routes, can be flight planned for use by
aircraft with RNAV capability, subject to any limitations or requirements noted
on en route charts, in applicable Advisory Circulars, or by NOTAM. RNAV routes
are depicted in blue on aeronautical charts and are identified by the letter “Q”
or “T” followed by the airway number (for example, Q-13, T-205). Published RNAV
routes are RNAV-2 except when specifically charted as RNAV-1. These routes
require system performance currently met by GPS, GPS/WAAS, or DME/DME/IRU RNAV
systems that satisfy the criteria discussed in AC 90-100A, U.S. Terminal and En
Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations.
AC 90-100A does not apply to over water RNAV routes (reference 14 CFR 91.511,
including the Q-routes in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic routes) or Alaska
VOR/DME RNAV routes (“JxxxR”). The AC does not apply to off-route RNAV
operations, Alaska GPS routes or Caribbean routes.
are available for use by RNAV equipped aircraft between 18,000 feet MSL and
FL 450 inclusive. Q-routes are depicted on Enroute High Altitude Charts.
Aircraft in Alaska may only operate on GNSS Qroutes with GPS (TSOC129 (as
revised) or TSOC196 (as revised)) equipment while the aircraft remains in Air
Traffic Control (ATC) radar surveillance or with GPS/WAAS which does not require
ATC radar surveillance.
are available for use by GPS or GPS/WAAS equipped aircraft from 1,200 feet above
the surface (or in some instances higher) up to but not including 18,000 feet
MSL. T-routes are depicted on Enroute Low Altitude Charts.
Aircraft in Alaska may only operate on GNSS Troutes with GPS/WAAS (TSOC145 (as
revised) or TSOC146 (as revised)) equipment.
RNAV routes are direct routes, based on area navigation capability, between
waypoints defined in terms of latitude/longitude coordinates, degree-distance
fixes, or offsets from established routes/airways at a specified distance and
direction. Radar monitoring by ATC is required on all unpublished RNAV routes.
Reference Bearing (MRB) is the published bearing between two waypoints on an
RNAV/GPS/GNSS route. The MRB is calculated by applying magnetic variation at the
waypoint to the calculated true course between two waypoints. The MRB enhances
situational awareness by indicating a reference bearing (no-wind heading) that a
pilot should see on the compass/HSI/RMI, etc., when turning prior to/over a
waypoint en route to another waypoint. Pilots should use this bearing as a
reference only, because their RNAV/GPS/GNSS navigation system will fly the true
course between the waypoints.
above FL 450 may be conducted on a point‐to‐point basis. Navigational guidance
is provided on an area basis utilizing those facilities depicted on the enroute
high altitude charts.
c. Radar Vectors. Controllers
may vector aircraft within controlled airspace for separation purposes, noise
abatement considerations, when an operational advantage will be realized by the
pilot or the controller, or when requested by the pilot. Vectors outside of
controlled airspace will be provided only on pilot request. Pilots will be
advised as to what the vector is to achieve when the vector is controller
initiated and will take the aircraft off a previously assigned nonradar route.
To the extent possible, aircraft operating on RNAV routes will be allowed to
remain on their own navigation.
flying in Canadian airspace, pilots are cautioned to review Canadian Air
attention should be given to the parts which differ from U.S. CFRs.
Canadian Airways Class B airspace restriction is an example. Class B airspace is
all controlled low level airspace above 12,500 feet MSL or the MEA, whichever is
higher, within which only IFR and controlled VFR flights are permitted. (Low
level airspace means an airspace designated and defined as such in the
Designated Airspace Handbook.)
issued a VFR flight clearance by ATC,
regardless of the weather conditions or the height of the
terrain, no person may operate an aircraft under VMC within Class B airspace.
(c) The requirement for entry into Class B airspace
is a student pilot permit (under the guidance or control of a flight
flight requires visual contact with the ground or water at all times.
of VOR airways and high level routes in Canada are based on L/MF navigation aids
and are charted in brown color instead of blue on en route charts.
Adhering to Airways or Routes
5-3-5. Airway or Route Course Changes
a. Pilots of aircraft are required to adhere to
airways or routes being flown. Special attention must
be given to this requirement during course changes.
Each course change consists of variables that make
the technique applicable in each case a matter only the
pilot can resolve. Some variables which must be
considered are turn radius, wind effect, airspeed,
degree of turn, and cockpit instrumentation. An early
turn, as illustrated below, is one method of adhering
to airways or routes. The use of any available cockpit
instrumentation, such as Distance Measuring Equipment, may be used by the pilot to lead the turn when
making course changes. This is consistent with the
intent of 14 CFR Section 91.181, which requires
pilots to operate along the centerline of an airway and
along the direct course between navigational aids or
b. Turns which begin at or after fix passage may
exceed airway or route boundaries. FIG 5-3-1
contains an example flight track depicting this,
together with an example of an early turn.
c. Without such actions as leading a turn, aircraft
operating in excess of 290 knots true air speed (TAS)
can exceed the normal airway or route boundaries
depending on the amount of course change required,
wind direction and velocity, the character of the turn
fix (DME, overhead navigation aid, or intersection),
and the pilot's technique in making a course change.
For example, a flight operating at 17,000 feet MSL
with a TAS of 400 knots, a 25 degree bank, and a
course change of more than 40 degrees would exceed
the width of the airway or route; i.e., 4 nautical miles
each side of centerline. However, in the airspace
below 18,000 feet MSL, operations in excess of
290 knots TAS are not prevalent and the provision of
additional IFR separation in all course change
situations for the occasional aircraft making a turn in
excess of 290 knots TAS creates an unacceptable
waste of airspace and imposes a penalty upon the
preponderance of traffic which operate at low speeds.
Consequently, the FAA expects pilots to lead turns
and take other actions they consider necessary during
course changes to adhere as closely as possible to the
airways or route being flown.
5-3-6. Changeover Points (COPs)
a. COPs are prescribed for Federal airways, jet
routes, area navigation routes, or other direct routes
for which an MEA is designated under 14 CFR
Part 95. The COP is a point along the route or airway
segment between two adjacent navigation facilities or
waypoints where changeover in navigation guidance
should occur. At this point, the pilot should change
navigation receiver frequency from the station
behind the aircraft to the station ahead.
b. The COP is normally located midway between
the navigation facilities for straight route segments,
or at the intersection of radials or courses forming a
dogleg in the case of dogleg route segments. When
the COP is NOT located at the midway point,
aeronautical charts will depict the COP location and
give the mileage to the radio aids.
c. COPs are established for the purpose of
preventing loss of navigation guidance, to prevent
frequency interference from other facilities, and to
prevent use of different facilities by different aircraft
in the same airspace. Pilots are urged to observe COPs
to the fullest extent.
5-3-7. Minimum Turning Altitude (MTA)
Due to increased airspeeds at 10,000 ft MSL or above,
the published minimum enroute altitude (MEA) may
not be sufficient for obstacle clearance when a turn is
required over a fix, NAVAID, or waypoint. In these
instances, an expanded area in the vicinity of the turn
point is examined to determine whether the published
MEA is sufficient for obstacle clearance. In some
locations (normally mountainous), terrain/obstacles
in the expanded search area may necessitate a higher
minimum altitude while conducting the turning
maneuver. Turning fixes requiring a higher minimum
turning altitude (MTA) will be denoted on
government charts by the minimum crossing altitude
(MCA) icon (“x" flag) and an accompanying note
describing the MTA restriction. An MTA restriction
will normally consist of the air traffic service (ATS)
route leading to the turn point, the ATS route leading
from the turn point, and the required altitude; e.g.,
MTA V330 E TO V520 W 16000. When an MTA is
applicable for the intended route of flight, pilots must
ensure they are at or above the charted MTA not later
than the turn point and maintain at or above the MTA
until joining the centerline of the ATS route following
the turn point. Once established on the centerline
following the turning fix, the MEA/MOCA determines the minimum altitude available for assignment.
An MTA may also preclude the use of a specific
altitude or a range of altitudes during a turn. For
example, the MTA may restrict the use of 10,000
through 11,000 ft MSL. In this case, any altitude
greater than 11,000 ft MSL is unrestricted, as are
altitudes less than 10,000 ft MSL provided
MEA/MOCA requirements are satisfied.
a. Whenever an aircraft is cleared to a fix other
than the destination airport and delay is expected, it
is the responsibility of the ATC controller 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 enroute, and area or STAR charts should
b. If the holding pattern is charted and the
controller doesn't issue complete holding instructions, the pilot is expected to hold as depicted on the
appropriate chart. When the pattern is charted, the
controller may omit all holding instructions except
the charted holding direction and the statement AS
PUBLISHED; e.g., HOLD EAST AS PUBLISHED.
Controllers 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 Enroute, Area and STAR
Charts. Pilots are expected to hold in the pattern
depicted unless specifically advised otherwise by
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
AIM, Holding, Paragraph 5-3-8j2.
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
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.
Holding Pattern Descriptive Terms
j. Holding pattern airspace protection is based on
the following procedures.
1. Descriptive Terms.
(a) Standard Pattern. Right turns
(See FIG 5-3-3.)
(b) Nonstandard Pattern. Left turns
(a) All aircraft may hold at the following
altitudes and maximum holding airspeeds:
MHA - 6,000'
6,001' - 14,000'
14,001' and above
(b) The following are exceptions to the
maximum holding airspeeds:
(1) Holding patterns from 6,001' to
14,000' may be restricted to a maximum airspeed of
210 KIAS. This nonstandard pattern will be depicted
by an icon.
(2) Holding patterns may be restricted to a
maximum speed. The speed restriction is depicted in
parenthesis inside the holding pattern on the chart:
e.g., (175). The aircraft should be at or below the
maximum speed prior to initially crossing the holding
fix to avoid exiting the protected airspace. Pilots
unable to comply with the maximum airspeed
restriction should notify ATC.
(3) Holding patterns at USAF airfields
only - 310 KIAS maximum, unless otherwise
(4) Holding patterns at Navy fields only -
230 KIAS maximum, unless otherwise depicted.
(5) When a climb-in hold is specified by a
published procedure (e.g., “Climb-in holding
pattern to depart XYZ VORTAC at or above 10,000.”
or “All aircraft climb-in TRUCK holding pattern to
cross TRUCK Int at or above 11,500 before
proceeding on course.”), additional obstacle protection area has been provided to allow for greater
airspeeds in the climb for those aircraft requiring
them. The holding pattern template for a maximum
airspeed of 310 KIAS has been used for the holding
pattern if there are no airspeed restrictions on the
holding pattern as specified in subparagraph j2(b)(2)
of this paragraph. Where the holding pattern is
restricted to a maximum airspeed of 175 KIAS, the
200 KIAS holding pattern template has been applied
for published climb-in hold procedures for altitudes
6,000 feet and below and the 230 KIAS holding
pattern template has been applied for altitudes above
6,000 feet. The airspeed limitations in 14 CFR
Section 91.117, Aircraft Speed, still apply.
(c) The following phraseology may be used
by an ATCS to advise a pilot of the maximum holding
airspeed for a holding pattern airspace area.
(AIRCRAFT IDENTIFICATION) (holding instructions,
when needed) MAXIMUM HOLDING AIRSPEED IS
(speed in knots).
Holding Pattern Entry Procedures
3. Entry Procedures. (See FIG 5-3-4.)
(a) Parallel Procedure. When approaching
the holding fix from anywhere in sector (a), the
parallel entry procedure would be to turn to a heading
to parallel the holding course outbound on the
nonholding side for one minute, turn in the direction
of the holding pattern through more than 180 degrees,
and return to the holding fix or intercept the holding
(b) Teardrop Procedure. When approaching the holding fix from anywhere in sector (b), the
teardrop entry procedure would be to fly to the fix,
turn outbound to a heading for a 30 degree teardrop
entry within the pattern (on the holding side) for a
period of one minute, then turn in the direction of the
holding pattern to intercept the inbound holding
(c) Direct Entry Procedure. When approaching the holding fix from anywhere in
sector (c), the direct entry procedure would be to fly
directly to the fix and turn to follow the holding
(d) While other entry procedures may enable
the aircraft to enter the holding pattern and remain
within protected airspace, the parallel, teardrop and
direct entries are the procedures for entry and holding
recommended by the FAA.
(a) Inbound Leg.
(1) At or below 14,000 feet MSL: 1 minute.
(2) Above 14,000 feet MSL: 11/2 minutes.
The initial outbound leg should be flown for 1 minute or
1 1/2 minutes (appropriate to altitude). Timing for
subsequent outbound legs should be adjusted, as
necessary, to achieve proper inbound leg time. Pilots may
use any navigational means available; i.e., DME, RNAV,
etc., to ensure the appropriate inbound leg times.
(b) Outbound leg timing begins over/abeam
the fix, whichever occurs later. If the abeam position
cannot be determined, start timing when turn to
outbound is completed.
5. Distance Measuring Equipment (DME)/
GPS Along-Track Distance (ATD). DME/GPS
holding is subject to the same entry and holding
procedures except that distances (nautical miles) are
used in lieu of time values. The outbound course of
the DME/GPS holding pattern is called the outbound
leg of the pattern. The controller or the instrument
approach procedure chart will specify the length of
the outbound leg. The end of the outbound leg is
determined by the DME or ATD readout. The holding
fix on conventional procedures, or controller defined
holding based on a conventional navigation aid with
DME, is a specified course or radial and distances are
from the DME station for both the inbound and
outbound ends of the holding pattern. When flying
published GPS overlay or stand alone procedures
with distance specified, the holding fix will be a
waypoint in the database and the end of the outbound
leg will be determined by the ATD. Some GPS
overlay and early stand alone procedures may have
timing specified. (See FIG 5-3-5, FIG 5-3-6 and
FIG 5-3-7.) See paragraph 1-1-19, Global
Positioning System (GPS), for requirements and
restriction on using GPS for IFR operations.
Inbound Toward NAVAID
When the inbound course is toward the NAVAID, the fix distance is 10 NM, and the leg length is 5 NM, then the end of the
outbound leg will be reached when the DME/ATD reads 15 NM.
Inbound Leg Away from NAVAID
When the inbound course is away from the NAVAID and the fix distance is 28 NM, and the leg length is 8 NM, then the end
of the outbound leg will be reached when the DME/ATD reads 20 NM.
The inbound course is always toward the waypoint and the ATD is zero at the waypoint. The end of the outbound leg of the
holding pattern is reached when the ATD reads the specified distance.
6. Pilot Action.
(a) Start speed reduction when 3 minutes or
less from the holding fix. Cross the holding fix,
initially, at or below the maximum holding airspeed.
(b) Make all turns during entry and while
(1) 3 degrees per second; or
(2) 30 degree bank angle; or
(3) 25 degree bank provided a flight
director system is used.
Use whichever requires the least bank angle.
(c) Compensate for wind effect primarily by
drift correction on the inbound and outbound legs.
When outbound, triple the inbound drift correction to
avoid major turning adjustments; e.g., if correcting
left by 8 degrees when inbound, correct right by
24 degrees when outbound.
(d) Determine entry turn from aircraft
heading upon arrival at the holding fix; +/-5 degrees
in heading is considered to be within allowable good
operating limits for determining entry.
(e) Advise ATC immediately what increased
airspeed is necessary, if any, due to turbulence, icing,
etc., or if unable to accomplish any part of the holding
procedures. When such higher speeds become no
longer necessary, operate according to the appropriate published holding speed and notify ATC.
7. Nonstandard Holding Pattern. Fix end
and outbound end turns are made to the left. Entry
procedures to a nonstandard pattern are oriented in
relation to the 70 degree line on the holding side just
as in the standard pattern.
k. When holding at a fix and instructions are
received specifying the time of departure from the fix,
the pilot should adjust the aircraft's flight path within
the limits of the established holding pattern in order
to leave the fix at the exact time specified. After
departing the holding fix, normal speed is to be
resumed with respect to other governing speed
requirements, such as terminal area speed limits,
specific ATC requests, etc. Where the fix is associated
with an instrument approach and timed approaches
are in effect, a procedure turn must not be executed
unless the pilot advises ATC, since aircraft holding
are expected to proceed inbound on final approach
directly from the holding pattern when approach
clearance is received.
l. Radar surveillance of outer fix holding pattern
1. Whenever aircraft are holding at an outer fix,
ATC will usually provide radar surveillance of the
outer fix holding pattern airspace area, or any portion
of it, if it is shown on the controller's radar scope.
2. The controller will attempt to detect any
holding aircraft that stray outside the holding pattern
airspace area and will assist any detected aircraft to
return to the assigned airspace area.
Many factors could prevent ATC from providing this
additional service, such as workload, number of targets,
precipitation, ground clutter, and radar system capability.
These circumstances may make it unfeasible to maintain
radar identification of aircraft to detect aircraft straying
from the holding pattern. The provision of this service
depends entirely upon whether controllers believe they are
in a position to provide it and does not relieve a pilot of their
responsibility to adhere to an accepted ATC clearance.
3. If an aircraft is established in a published
holding pattern at an assigned altitude above the
published minimum holding altitude and subsequently cleared for the approach, the pilot may descend to
the published minimum holding altitude. The holding
pattern would only be a segment of the IAP if it is
published on the instrument procedure chart and is
used in lieu of a procedure turn.
m. For those holding patterns where there are no
published minimum holding altitudes, the pilot, upon
receiving an approach clearance, must maintain the
last assigned altitude until leaving the holding pattern
and established on the inbound course. Thereafter, the
published minimum altitude of the route segment
being flown will apply. It is expected that the pilot
will be assigned a holding altitude that will permit a
normal descent on the inbound course.