January 12, 2022
While seemly a small item in the large list of items relevant to pilot comprehension, PIREPS are one way to help everyone stay safer in the skies. A PIREP is a pilot report about conditions encountered in flight. Used as a supplement to general forecasts for an area, PIREPs contain important, detailed information gathered from people actually in the air. As a result, they’re often more accurate and precise. They help pilots avoid areas where they might encounter uncomfortable turbulence or dangerous icing, potentially saving headaches and lives. Understanding them is critical to helping you and other pilots fly safely. And as a pilot, you will likely find yourself on both sides of a PIREP: making a report as well as using one.
Air Traffic Control (ATC) gathers and disseminates PIREPs about potential hazards to aid all pilots in staying clear of weather hazards. ATC may solicit a PIREP under certain conditions: when ceilings are at or below 5,000 feet; visibility reported on the surface or aloft is 5 miles or less; there are reported thunderstorms; there are reports of turbulence of moderate degree or greater; there is reported icing of light degree or greater; there is wind shear; there are runway braking action reports less than “good”; and there is a volcanic eruption, ash clouds, or the detection of sulfur gases in the cabin. Additionally, if you have to execute a missed approach because of weather conditions, you may also give a PIREP.
ATC will likely request a PIREP during preflight weather briefings, on post-flight contacts, during regular air-ground contacts, via a broadcast request on NAVAID frequencies or other air traffic facilities.
The typical phraseology you will hear from ATC stating the need for a pilot report will be:
ATC: Pilot weather reports are requested (location/area). Contact (facility) name on (frequency) to report these conditions.
For examples of these requests, take a look at the Aviation Radio Simulator (ARSim) PIREP module.
At the most basic level, PIREPs only need to contain five elements, which can be remembered by using the acronym LATTO:
A PIREP can be submitted via the radio or telephone to an air traffic control facility, Flight Service Station, ATC, or Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), before or after landing. The FAA also provides an electronic PIREP submission tool at the National Weather Service’s Aviation Weather Center Digital data Service website: www.aviationweather.gov/user/register.
It’s possible to give a “Plain English” PIREP to ATC. But knowing and understanding the actual definitions and classifications of various weather conditions and the phraseology for making a PIREP will make for a better and more accurate report. The FAA provides specific definitions and classifications for cloud cover, degree and intensity of turbulence, and icing types and intensity.
Cloud cover: clear, few, scattered, broken
Turbulence: light, moderate, severe, extreme
Icing types: rime, clear, mixed:
Icing intensity, trace, light, moderate, severe
You can learn and test your knowledge of the definitions and classification of the weather conditions—as well as practice making an actual PIREP—in the PIREP module of the ARSim under the Learn Basics section of the app.
When you are on the receiving end of a PIREP, you will likely be faced with a coded message of the same type of information when you make a PIREP. The FAA says in its Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) that PIREPs are easily decoded. But if you haven’t looked at one recently or haven’t practiced, it can still be a challenge.
Below are the main parts of a PIREP:
The FAA has specific criteria on what constitutes an urgent PIREP. Urgent PIREPs describe weather phenomena that are potentially hazardous to flight operations, including:
If you feel you are rusty on PIREPs, definitions and classification of weather phenomena, and the phraseology of making a PIREP, make sure to take advantage of the free PIREP module in ARSim. Spend some time reviewing them when you’re not flying. For a real-time look at recent PIREPs, visit the Aviation Weather Center Aircraft Reports page.
FAA Safety Briefing Mar/Apr 2020
Aviation Weather Center ADDS Aircraft Reports
Operational Implementation of AWC Online PIREP Submission Form
Inflight Electronic PIREP Submission (1800WXBRIEF)
Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) Chapter 7-1-19, Pilot Weather Reports
“Pipe Up With PIREPs” FAA Safety Briefing magazine, May/June 2008
“Pay It Forward with PIREPS”
September 23, 2022
August 08, 2022
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