How to Read PIREPS (Pilot Reports)

We’ve covered how to read METAR’s and understanding TAF’s but PIREPS are one area that seem to get neglected.

Why are so many PIREPS neglected? Pilots sometimes fail to give them.

What is a PIREP?

PIREPS are pilot reports of actual weather conditions, they contain some of the best information you the pilot can obtain. No better info than from someone who’s been there done that!

How do I give a PIREP?

Giving a PIREP is easy call Flight Service in the air or on the ground. They’re more than happy to help and love receiving PIREPS. Yet reading a PIREP is slightly more difficult.

Reading a PIREP

Required data found in all PIREP’s are as follows:

UA or UUA used to identify the PIREP as routine (UA) or urgent (UUA).
/OV location of the PIREP
/TM time the PIREP was received from the pilot
/FL flight level or altitude above sea level at the time the PIREP is filed
/TP aircraft type

optional info to be reported and displayed:

/SK sky cover
/TA temperature
/WV wind velocity
/TB turbulance
/IC icing
/RM remarks


UA /OV YSP 090025 /TM 2120 /FL050 /TP BE99 /SK 020BKN040 110OVC /TA -14 /WV 030045 /TB MDT CAT 060-080 /IC LGT RIME 020-040 /RM LGT FZRA INC

Which reads as:

This is a Routine Upper Air PIREP (thus the UA). The aircraft observation was 25 NM east of the Marathon, Ontario (YSP) VOR/DME (090 due east 025 miles) at 2120 UTC. The aircraft was at 5,000 ft (FL050) and is a Beech 99.(TP BE99) The clouds were broken at 2,000 ft AMSL with tops at 4,000 ft and an overcast layer at 11,000 ft AMSL. (the pilot must have climbed through the layer to know the tops) The temperature is -14 Celsius and the winds are from the NE at 45 knots. (030 @45) There is moderate clear air turbulence (MDT CAT) between 6,000 ft and 8,000 ft. There is light rime icing between 2,000 ft and 4,000 ft. (This would indicate that the icing is picked up in the cloud.) The remarks section says that light freezing rain was encountered in the cloud. (RM LGT FZRA)


I’ll be honest, reading PIREPS is tough but is a skill all pilots need to learn. If you still have questions shoot me an e-mail I’d be more than happy to talk and help with any aspect of your flight training.

Remember a good pilot gives PIREPS (even if it’s a clear day) and is always learning!

  • Phil O’Rourke

    Jason do u think a Maule airplane is a quality airplane?

  • M. King

    Good job! When we will get away from all the abbreviations now that we are in the computer age and don’t have to use a teletype machine? Why make new pilots learn zillions of strange shorthand notations?

  • Pepita

    Thank you. I was quizzed in my private pilot exam yesterday about reading PIREPS and this has been very helpful.

  • Celestialhaji23

    The last few days I have seen many trails left by most planes high in the atmosphere, spanning from horizon to horizon. Are you able to tell me exactly what is occurring when this happens. The trails run north south, most of the time and drift with the wind. Any answers thoughts would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  • Jerry_wang1990

    What does -ZSE in pireps mean?

  • M. Jones

    Yes for sure the learning never stops! Almost a new lingo to pick up, but it makes sense for sure to learn!

  • Rick Newcomb

    Seattle ARTCC (Center)

  • Hawkerpilot62

    What you are seeing are contrails. Abbreviation for condensation trail. When a jet engine takes air in, it is compressed and ignited. The hot air, in excess of 600 degrees Celsius, rushes out the back and comes into contact with the outside air which is about -56 degrees Celsius. If there is sufficient moisture in the air, as the air cools it condenses into a “cloud.” This is mostly Ice crystals up his high, but they look like clouds to you and I from the ground. They naturally “move” based upon the upper air flow, ie “jet stream.”

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