Below is an article I wrote a few years ago on how to get NOTAMs onto your Nav System:
Getting today’s NOTAMs onto your PDA – with ease.
Many of us fly with PDAs, which we use to keep ourselves clear of airspace. Each day we are meant to check NOTAMs that might affect us. The format that NATS provide these in is well known to be obscure – reading lists of lats and longs is not a good way to self-brief. Of course there are programs that help interpret this information in a graphical format – and these are very useful, but this information still needs to be printed or transferred to a map.
Is there a better way?
This note describes a simple process by which NOTAMs can be reviewed and downloaded onto a PDA so that they appear as airspace, and give a warning if we stray too close. It is easy and takes little time (five minutes including NOTAM review). This can be done before heading out to the airfield – even the night before (you still need to phone the AIS line on 0500 354802 on the day of course). My particular way of doing it uses Spine (a free program) and See You PC and mobile (not so free) – but a similar process works with other PDA software, and several are described later.
Here’s what you do.
Download NOTAMs into SPINE (press the ‘DOWNLOAD’ button in the figure 1).
Either the evening before, or the morning of the flight, download the NOTAM data into SPINE (Soaring Pilots’ Intelligent NOTAM Editor - http://www.enborne.f2s.com/gliding/spine.htm). This is an easy program to set up, and will download NOTAMs within a certain radius of your chosen home airfield. I use a radius larger than I am ever likely to fly, so I can leave that set whatever the conditions. It will do a certain amount of filtering itself – there’s a setting for ‘Gliding’ – so many of the irrelevant NOTAMs are ignored automatically.
Review NOTAMs and delete those you don’t want.
Pressing the ‘PLOT’ button produces a new window (the picture in Figure 2 looks cluttered, but the map needs to be small to fit on the page – it’s much better on a reasonable sized screen).
Use the + and – buttons to scale the map to the area of interest. Then, by moving the mouse around this window, review each NOTAM in any area you’re likely to fly. The NOTAM text appears in the panel to the left of this window, and also in the window we first opened. I find the best approach is to delete NOTAMs which either won’t affect me, or which I don’t want on the PDA. For example, I don’t want to be told each time I fly that Bourn no longer has an ATZ, and there’s not much I can do about the occasional free balloon. So they go. I leave the interesting stuff – air displays, Red Arrows transits, BBMF etc. SPINE is smart about this – if you delete it today, it doesn’t usually come back tomorrow, so you’re just looking at the new stuff.
I then generally print the map plot, and that goes in the aircraft with me as a paper backup. I also write on the paper the relevant times of the key NOTAMS, since See You won’t present me with that information in the air.
Save the NOTAMs in a file that See You can use.
In the main SPINE window there is a ‘SAVE AS’ button. Underneath it, select the file format required (for See You use Open Air format). Save the edited NOTAMs to a file (eg “SPINE output.txt”) in the same directory as the See You airspace files (but you can put it anywhere you like). Spine remembers this directory so there’s no selection to be made next time.
Start See You on my PC.
The very first time you do this, you need to tell See You to add the airspace information from the “SPINE output.txt” file. (Use Tools/Airspace then “Add” then select the file). After that, because See You loads the airspace when it starts, you just need to make sure you start See you after you’ve saved the NOTAM file. You’ll find that any the NOTAM information is now in all the See You maps. See You treats the NOTAM information in the same class as Danger Areas – so you can change the way that this is displayed – for example thickening the line if you want (in Tools/Airspace select Danger Area under Items and then select the style you want). You can also, if you want, change the label of the airspace in SPINE – see Settings/Output).
Transfer the data to the PDA.
See You has a useful feature which allows you to transfer the data from See You PC to See You Mobile. With the PDA connected via USB to the PC, you use File/Mobile Wizard. So long as you have the airspace box ticked, your NOTAMs will transfer, along with any other settings that you’ve selected. (You can also use this feature to transfer maps, waypoints and so on). For other nav systems see below.
Then you can go flying. As you get close to one of the NOTAMs you’ve left on the system, you will get the standard See You warning. And you’ve always got the paper backup if the technology all goes to worms!
Using other PDA software
The process described above works with SPINE, See You PC and See You Mobile. What happens if you don’t use that software? It may well be possible to use an alternative NOTAM editor – I leave that to you to find out how to do, since SPINE is free. But it’s certainly possible to use SPINE with other flight management software. My thanks to a number of people who have provided the following guidance: (NB: All the examples except the LX date back to 2010 – things may have changed, but it should be enough to get going)
Glide Navigator II:
The TNP format files (“SPINE output.air”) mentioned above should work fine in Glide Navigator II. You can use Microsoft’s ActiveSync (available as a free download from www.pocketpc.com) to browse the Pocket PC PDA. With Windows Explorer copy the files to a suitable directory on the PDA, such as "My Computer/Mobile Device/My Pocket PC/Storage Card/My Documents".
To enable the files in GN II, go to Menu 2 and press the “SUA and Wps” button. Then select the desired waypoint and airspace files in the bottom window and click the Add button to move them to the top window.
Connect to the PDA as for Glide Navigator II. Then copy the “SPINE output.air” file into the XCSoar data directory on the PDA. In the system configuration menu, select it as second airspace file (you only need to do this the first time).
If you have XCSoar on an SD card, you can write the file directly to that card before plugging it into the PDA.
Save the “SPINE output.air” file to the SUA folder on a USB stick, but change the file extension of the saved file to .sua (so “SPINE output.sua”). Plug the USB stick into the ClearNavUSB socket used for downloading before switch on, Update Airspace as usual, then include the new file from the settings menu.
WinPilot can use an OpenAir format file, which SPINE can provide. From its manual: “User Airspace file must have extension *.txt, and has to be placed in \My Documents
folder on your iPAQ”
For the LX I create an airspace file from SeeYou without NOTAMs. This I load into the LX main memory, but it isn’t usually selected (it has a filename something like “UK Airspace 2017.cub”). Then, with an SD card in the PC, I start the SeeYou mobile wizard (as step 5 above), but with just the Airspace box ticked. After pressing ‘Next’ I select the ‘Copy to my computer button, and browse to the root of the SD card.
This file I call something like “UK Airspace and NOTAMS.cub”.
I then set the LX profile to use the “UK Airspace and NOTAMS” file on the SD card by default. If I haven’t put the card in, I revert to the “UK Airspace 2017” file in main memory.
At that point, NOTAM review and loading to the SD card takes just a few minutes. Put the card into the LX, and the NOTAMS are on my main display automatically.
20 November 2010 – updated for LX May 2017