Principal Air - Flight Training / Charter in Canada

Principal Air - Flight Training / Charter in Canada, Learn to Fly


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Abbotsford International Airport
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Pilot Reports

“The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often

for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.”

--Patrick Young--

I can’t speak for the rest of our large and beautiful country, but, out here on the west coast, we are ‘blessed’ with long distances between official weather reporting stations and a wide variety of micro-climates that can change at their own whim, rapidly and without warning. A pilot planning a flight over areas not covered by official weather reporting points will do well to pay careful attention to reports from fellow pilots who have recently traversed those airways.

Pilot reports (PIREPs) are one of the very useful products available to us through Nav Canada on their website,; by telephone to FSS, 1-866-WXBRIEF; or while enroute by radio on 126.7.

The information transmitted through a PIREP is based on reports received by FSS from pilots in flight and can be invaluable both for flight planning and up-dates on current conditions in areas where no FSS is available to provide official observations.

FSS personnel are required to solicit PIREP information from pilots when poor weather conditions exist or may exist: when ceilings are below 2,000’, visibility is less than 3 statute miles, there is moderate or heavy precipitation, turbulence, icing, thunderstorms, winds in excess of 50 kts, or when conditions are substantially different from expected. FSS may also request PIREP information from aircraft in climb out and descent when conditions are less than VMC or wind-shear may be present.

It’s an excellent plan to make PIREP reports to FSS when you file routine position reports enroute or when you ask for a weather up-date. The more information available to pilots flying in under-reported areas the better their decisions can be. 

The key information that should be included when making a PIREP is the time of your observation, the type of aircraft you are flying, your altitude, your position, and the meteorological conditions you observe.

If you receive your PIREP by voice, the friendly FSS briefer will helpfully translate the information into plain English which even a person like me can understand. If you receive your initial weather information by FAX or through the internet, PIREPs require a bit of deciphering. With a little practice this is easily achieved.

I know many flight students shy away from the seemingly complex appearance of the written PIREP until they have had an opportunity to receive some helpful explanation. The AIP section MET 3.17 gives an excellent chart to help decipher the wily PIREP or you can always give your flight service specialist a call if you run into difficulties.

Let’s take a look at a couple of example PIREPs and see if we can disassemble them and come to a clearer understanding.

First, here's one from the Vancouver FIR (Flight Information Region).

UACN10 CYPR 051534



UACN10 tells us this is a regular PIREP. An urgent PIREP would be coded UACN01.

CYPR 051719 states this PIREP was issued by the Prince Rupert FSS on the 5th of the month at 1534 UTC.

VR tells us this PIREP is applicable to the Vancouver FIR. If the information is applicable for more than one region, each applicable region will be indicated.

UA/OV CYPZ states this PIREP is based on information reported by an aircraft over Burns Lake, BC. Section “A” of your CFS gives an alphabetical list of airport identifiers for those of you like me who have not yet memorized all the airport codes for Canada. If the PIREP is provided with reference to a navigation aid, a VOR for example, you might see something like YKJ 090010 which translates to 10 nm east of YKJ (Key Lake, Saskatchewan, VOR/DME) on the 090 radial. For a list of radio navigation aid codes, check section “D” at the back of your CFS.

TM 1534 gives us the time of the pilot report: 1534 UTC.

FLUNKN tells us that the flight level (FL) of the reporting aircraft is unknown (UNKN). If the flight level is known to FSS, it will be included and will look something like FL095 (Flight Level 9500’). Altitude may also be reported during climb (FLDURC) or during descent (FLDURD)

TP BE76 gives us the aircraft type. In this case, the aircraft is a Beech Duchess. This information is particularly important if turbulence is reported. Moderate turbulence reported by someone driving a 737 might reflect somewhat different actual conditions than moderate turbulence reported by the fellow flying a Piper Cub. The FSS issuing the report will take the aircraft type into consideration when publishing the level of turbulence.

SK 032 SCT-BKN LWR SE-SW describes the sky cover (SK). In this situation the pilot reports he or she is experiencing scattered to broken layers of cloud with a base at 3200’ and that cloud layers appear lower to the southeast and southwest.

WV 03015 says the wind direction is 030 true; wind speed is 15 knots.

RM VSBY 15 –SHRA is remarks: the visibility is 15 miles in light rain showers.

From the Edmonton FIR we have:

UACN10 CYEG 051703


UA/OV CYBW 360012/TM 1703/FL065/TP C152/TA 1/RM FG/BR ENDS 5 N CYBW … CLR TO N

This example is a standard pilot report issued by the Edmonton FIR on the fifth of the month at 1703 UTC and is applicable to the Edmonton region. The reporting aircraft was 12 miles north of the Brandon, Manitoba, VORTAC (CYBW) on the 360 radial. The report was made at 1703 UTC and the aircraft, a Cessna 152, was then flying at 6500’. Air temperature was 1 degree C. The pilot reported fog and mist ending 5 miles north of the Brandon VORTAC; the sky is clear to the north.

Obtaining PIREPs is a very useful and helpful part of pre-flight planning, particularly if you will be flying into areas not well covered by official weather reporting stations.

Learning to read PIREPs easily and fluently can be a small challenge at first, but, with a little practice and some help from time to time, the task can be mastered. PIREPs provide very important and up-to-date information unavailable by other means. Providing FSS with timely and accurate PIREPs enroute can be of great assistance to other pilots who may be planning to traverse the same route you have just flown.

Learning to use and provide PIREPs accurately and with fluency will help both you and the rest of us who brave the skies to be safer and better able to make sensible and competent decisions.