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NTSB sets sights on improving pirep systemNTSB sets sights on improving pirep system

Any pilot who has ever planned to fly over remote areas with few weather reporting stations during marginal conditions knows the value of pilot reports. Hearing what another pilot flying through the same area experienced can better inform the go/no-go decision-making process. All too often, however, there are no pireps to provide that extra glimpse into the weather.
The National Transportation Safety Board convened a forum to address the submission, collection, and dissemination of pireps.

The lack of pireps is due in part to pilots not providing unsolicited reports, but indications are that pireps that were given had been falling through the cracks and were not being disseminated to other pilots. To address the submission, collection, and dissemination of pireps the National Transportation Safety Board convened a forum June 21 and 22 in Washington, D.C.

Representatives from the FAA, National Weather Service, commercial weather service providers, and aviation industry groups, including AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Safety Advisor Bruce Landsberg and AOPA Alaska Regional Manager Tom George, discussed ways to gather and share pireps, the importance of the reports, and ways to improve the reporting system, among others.

The information pireps offer to pilots, air traffic controllers, and weather forecasters when captured and shared properly has the potential to increase aviation safety. Filing pireps helps to “not only report hazardous weather conditions, but confirm the lack of turbulence, icing, or marginal weather,” George said. “Forecasters use this information to adjust airmets and sigmets as well as the results of forecast models used to make terminal and area forecasts.”

“This isn’t really about pireps,” Landsberg said, expanding on the broader impact to aviation safety. “It’s about vastly more accurate weather forecasting and nowcasting. It has the potential to do as much for GA safety and utility as weather in the cockpit did 15 years ago.”

During the forum, George presented findings from a recent AOPA survey about pireps.

“While 83 percent of the pilots who took the survey indicated that they considered pireps very or extremely important to aviation safety, the majority said they ‘sometimes’ provide unsolicited reports,” George explained. “Many expressed frustration with the difficulty of filing pireps with flight service, and a concern that reports provided to ATC often don’t make it” into the system.

The association will provide its analysis of the pireps survey to the NTSB and other stakeholders to better inform possible changes to improve the pirep system, George said, adding that the NTSB is expected to produce recommendations based on the data gathered from the forum.

In the meantime, pilots can do their part by filing pireps. To brush up on how to give a pirep, take the AOPA Air Safety Insitute’s Skyspotter online course.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Miller

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
Topics: Safety and Education, Weather

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