Weather conditions can change quickly, and there’s nothing like having a pilot report (pirep) to give you a bird’s eye view of what it’s really like up there. Pireps may validate forecast conditions, or they may describe real-time weather that varies from them.
Either way, pireps have tremendous value to a pilot about to traverse that same chunk of airspace.
To get the most from a pirep, make sure you check these details against your own flight plan: Location—pilot reports close to your route of flight are the most relevant; Time—flight service stations and Flight Watch make pireps available instantly, but only for an hour; other sources, though, may have older pireps; Altitude—in turbulent or icing conditions, a couple thousand feet may make a big difference; Aircraft type—Light aircraft are rocked by turbulence more easily than heavies, so consider the type of aircraft reporting when deciding how the turbulence might affect you.
OK, so we all like to get pilot reports, but how often do we give them? It’s easily done in a few different ways. All across the United States, you can contact Flight Watch on 122.0. Tell them your position relative to the nearest VOR so they can respond on the appropriate transmitter. Then, report the conditions you are experiencing.
Although you don’t need to follow the order listed here (ATC will sort it out for you), you can include cloud coverage, cloud type, and cloud height (bases and tops); visibility; restrictions to visibility; precipitation type and intensity; temperature (Celsius); wind direction and speed; turbulence; icing; and other helpful remarks.
Here’s an example: Say you’re flying over the Columbus VOR on a beautiful day and you’ve contacted Atlanta Flight Watch to give a pilot report. After you’ve stated your aircraft type and tail number, you might report: “Twenty miles northeast of the Columbus VOR at 4,500 feet. The sky’s clear, visibility unlimited, temperature 20 degrees Celsius, and negative turbulence.”
Or, perhaps the weather is moving faster than forecast, and, although it’s clearer than you expected, the ride is bumpier. You could tell Flight Watch that the ceiling is broken at 5,000 feet, visibility unrestricted, with occasional light to moderate chop.
If you can’t reach Flight Watch, try Flight Service on 122.2, or on the frequency listed on your chart. Sometimes, you have to call Flight Service on a comm frequency, and listen through your nav radio.
If you want a refresher on how this is done, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has a free online course that will walk you through the process.
Pilot reports provide valuable, sometimes critical, weather information that is unavailable from any other source. So, take advantage of this pilot resource, and be sure to file your own pireps along the way.
Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership
Q: Will AOPA be hosting another fly-in at its headquarters this year?
A: Mark Saturday, June 7 on your calendar now as AOPA will once again open our doors to our members, making this our eighteenth annual event. Staff will be on hand to welcome you whether you fly or drive. Our fly-in will feature 100 aviation exhibitors, 40 aircraft on display, and speakers on a wide variety of topics, including AOPA President Phil Boyer. Visit our Web site for more details.
Q: How can I find out about aviation and airport events that may be of interest to me?
A: AOPA has an aviation and AOPA events calendar on our Web site where you can search by state, month, and even airport to find some aviation fun in your area or to plan a trip so that you can enjoy events in areas that you want to explore.
Q: I want to increase my number of entries into the 2008 AOPA “Get Your Glass Sweepstakes” and I heard that I can get two more by enrolling in AOPA’s Automatic Annual Renewal plan. How can I sign up?
A: Call our member services representatives and tell them what credit card you would like us to bill when your month of renewal rolls around. Or go to the Membership Services tab of our Web site and click “Manage My Membership” in the left column. Log-in and you’ll be able to enroll through our secure Web connection.
Member Services contact information:
Phone: 800-USA-AOPA (800-872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday.
After hours: Renew your membership, reset your web password, or enroll in Automatic Annual Renewal using our self-service touch-tone phone option.
E-mail: [email protected].
Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership, and much more by clicking on the “View/modify your membership info” or “Renew your membership” links in the blue log-in box under the Membership Services tab.