Pilot Reports represent an important source of weather information for pilots. Recently some new tools have been provided making it easier to access these observations.
PIREPs on AAWU
Just released today, the National Weather Service’s Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) has upgraded the Pilot Report map on their website. They have provided a PIREP map for a number of years, but only at a fixed state-wide scale. The improved version features an interactive map display, which may be zoomed and panned to provide more detail on the exact area you are interested in. This is particularly helpful when there are a cluster of reports that one wants to study in detail. The default value on the PIREP page displays reports from the last three hours, however the AAWU also provides the ability to change the time window in several increments ranging from one to twenty four hours, to be able to look at trends. They also still provide a text list at the bottom of the page listing the reports received in the last hour, if you want to go read them old school. Here is the link to their PIREP page: http://aawu.arh.noaa.gov/index.php?tab=4
SkyVector adds PIREPs
Another recent development is that PIREPs have been added as an optional layer to display on SkyVector.com. A free-online flight planning and online mapping service, Seattle based SkyVector.com has since 2006 provided products combining flight charts and airport data along with weather and other information. If you select the “layers” option at the top right corner of their main page, PIREPs are now an option that appears under the weather tab. They not only display PIREPs graphically on their zoomable map, but the icon itself indicates something about the content of the report. Hovering over the PIREP provides more significant information about the report and how long ago it was submitted. Clicking on the icon brings up the entire report. While I haven’t read formal documentation, it is clear that their icons are designed to provide information about the intensity of the report. In the example below, two PIPEPs indicating turbulence are shown, one reporting light and the other indicating moderate turbulence. The full report provides the additional information including aircraft type, and altitude.
PIREPs on the FAA Weather Camera Website
Although not a new feature, PIREPs are also available on the FAA’s Weather Camera website: http://avcams.faa.gov/ After toggling them on under the Options choices listed on the left side of the page, PIREPs are displayed as a yellow filled circle on the zoomable map. Unlike the AAWU site, there is no ability to select a time range to display, so reports age off the system after three hours. Clicking on the icon brings up the entire report.
Thanks to all of these organizations for providing these tools to access PIPEPs. I hope to see more developments in the display of this data in the future. It would be useful to see a graphic depiction of a “route report” that covers conditions between two or more points, such as a mountain pass.
Given these new resources, I hope there is an added incentive for each of us to take the extra minute to file a PIREP as we fly, and share with those behind the conditions we encountered along our route of flight!