For many pilots, reviewing reports of actual weather conditions along the planned route of flight is an essential preflight check. While interactive maps in most flight planning apps have made it easier to check pilot weather reports (PIREPs), the unfortunate reality is that there continues to be a low volume of PIREPs submitted by pilots flying GA airplanes.
One of the main limitations is the submission process, which requires pilots to relay PIREPs to ATC on busy approach or center frequencies. I think we’d all agree there be an exponentially larger number of daily PIREPs in the system if it they were as easy to submit as sharing a picture of your dinner plate from a fancy steakhouse on social media.
One company is attempting to improve the process, by allowing you to submit PIREPs right from your iPhone. Fly Virga is a free app which connects directly to Flight Service does exactly that, with a clean, easy to use interface.
Viewing PIREPs in Fly Virga
While Fly Virga is free to download, you’ll have to sign up for a free user account before you can use any of the features. This allows you to set up some basic preferences and participate in the unique social aspect of the app. The first screen you’ll then see is an interactive map with color-coded symbols representing current PIREPs. Tap one to read the details:
You’ll notice a section at the bottom of the report to “like” or comment on the PIREP, which will be shown to other users in the app.
Back on the map, tap the alert button at the top left of the screen to draw a custom alert area. You will then receive alerts when new PIREPs come through for the next 60 minutes in that area. This is a really useful feature to use in the hours leading up to your planned departure to keep up with changes:
Submitting PIREPs in Fly Virga
Adding a PIREP is easy too. Tap the “New Report” button at the bottom of the screen and follow the graphical prompts to input your observed data:
You can also attach pictures with your PIREP which can viewed by other Virga app users:
Many will question the usefulness of a PIREP submission app like this, since most GA pilots don’t have an internet connection in flight (yet) to make real-time reports. This is true, but there is still value to other pilots if you’re able to enter the PIREP data in the air and submit right after landing. In many cases that would make the report less than an hour old and help others see how in-flight conditions compare to the forecast. One last note–while Fly Virga is designed specifically for the iPhone, you can still run it on your iPad with some screen size limitations.