how important weather reports by pilots are to flight safety, the National Transportation Safety Board, in a
special investigation report released
on Thursday called for changes in training and procedures for pilots, air
traffic controllers and others within the aviation community to enhance the
effectiveness of the entire pilot weather reporting system with the intent to
reduce pilots’ inadvertent encounters with hazardous weather and to prevent
weather reports, or PIREPs, are brief reports from pilots of observed in-flight
weather conditions. Pilots, flight dispatchers and air traffic
controllers use the information gleaned from these reports to help all pilots
avoid weather hazards, including those that may not otherwise be known from
weather radar and other detection systems and forecasts alone. Meteorologists
also use PIREPs to validate or amend forecasts, enhancing the accuracy of the
weather information made available to the aviation community.
with the many advances that have been made in weather modeling and forecasting
in recent years, there’s still nothing that can replicate the value of pilots’
reports of the weather conditions they encounter,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt.
"As a longtime general aviation and air carrier pilot, I can’t
overemphasize the importance of PIREPs. They provide pilots of all types of
aircraft with critical real-time information that can enhance safety for
everyone in the skies”
developing the report, Improving Pilot Weather Report (PIREP) Submission and
Dissemination to Benefit Safety in the National Airspace System (NAS), staff
investigated numerous aviation accidents in which weather was a factor and held
a two-day forum on PIREPs in June 2016, which all revealed deficiencies in how
PIREPs were reported, collected, disseminated and used.
image at the top, excerpted from flightradar24 website, shows the approximate
volume of air traffic (derived from certain transponder, radar, and other data)
captured in an instant in June 2016. The image below it, excerpted from
the Aviation Weather Center’s website, shows graphical depictions of about two
dozen PIREPs submitted during a one-hour period on the same day.
uncovered a number of reasons why the pilot community makes relatively few
PIREPs, as shown in the graphics above. These include insufficient
emphasis during pilot training on the importance that PIREPs – including those
reporting “as forecast” or favorable conditions – can play in flight safety, a
lack of standard criteria for reporting certain weather phenomenon, and even
concerns by pilots that they could be targeted for enforcement action if they
report about adverse weather conditions they were or are in for which they or
their aircraft are not rated or qualified.
report details numerous factors that contribute to the challenges that air
traffic controllers face in soliciting, collecting, handling and disseminating
PIREPs, including inadequate and conflicting guidance, a lack of best practices
for all types of air traffic control facilities, insufficient automation
capabilities and a lack of scenario-based training.
also noted that air cargo operators, which do the majority of their flying overnight,
could significantly aid weather forecasters by increasing the frequency and
number of PIREPs submitted on a daily basis.
address the issues in this special investigation report, the NTSB issued safety
recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Weather
Service, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Aircraft Owners
and Pilots Association Air Safety Institute, the Aviation Accreditation Board
International, the National Association of Flight Instructors, the Society of
Aviation and Flight Educators, and the Cargo Airline Association.
Special Investigation Report—Improving Pilot Weather Report (PIREP) Submission
and Dissemination to Benefit Safety in the National Airspace System (NAS) is
available at https://go.usa.gov/xXSJc.
The agenda, presentations and other information
about the NTSB’s June 2016 PIREP Forum is available at https://go.usa.gov/xXSJk.