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Aviation Learning Center Document Weather Radar Echo Terms
Author: Christine Soucy and Michael Lenz Date: March 2006
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Important Things to Do
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Pilots of light general aviation aircraft should even approach areas of "light" precipitation with caution. A rapidly growing thunderstorm can increase at a rate of 6,000 feet per minute! Think of the time-lapse photographs and weather radar loops showing building thunderstorms. "Light" precipitation could grow to "moderate" and "heavy" levels within a very short period of time, given the right conditions.

The following tips are offered to assist pilots in navigating stormy skies safely.

  • Request course deviations early. Don't wait until the last moment.

  • Ask for information updates as needed. The ARTCC WARP/NEXRAD updates every one to six minutes. Terminal (ASR based) systems show near "real time" echoes.

  • Make sure the controller understands what services you want.

  • Maintain situational awareness concerning your position and the weather areas you wish to avoid.

  • Include the information that you are on a heading assigned/approved by ATC for weather avoidance, when you report onto the next controller's frequency.

  • Verify what additional services ATC is providing to you. Is it what you need?

Pipe Up with a PIREP

Pilot reports (PIREP) of flight conditions are an invaluable source of information for other pilots and controllers as well. PIREPs should include reports of turbulence, icing, cloud tops and bases, intensity of rain, presence of hail, sleet, etc. A PIREP is often the only source of information regarding actual flight conditions a pilot may encounter. Do your part for flight safety and pipe up with a PIREP!

For those who have never submitted a PIREP, the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) explains how to submit one, the uses of a PIREP, and the format a pilot should use in reporting information. AIM paragraph 7-1-21, Pilot Weather Reports, is the reference. Table 7-1-6, PIREP Element Code Chart, explains the reporting format with the elements explained.

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