Fairbanks man receives first state ADS-B loan

AP Photo/Steve Helber

The first state loan application for the equipage of new aviation technology, referred to as NexGen, has been approved and the equipment installed in a Fairbanks-based aircraft.

The Alaska Avionics Loan Program, introduced in a bill by Gov. Sarah Palin in January 2008, qualified its first applicant for the installation of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, equipment. Fairbanks resident Gary Hunt has the technology in his amphibious Lake Buccaneer aircraft.

ADS-B is a situational awareness technology that displays on a cockpit screen other aircraft, as well as the terrain in the area. It offers a moving map display, weather and terrain avoidance features, as well as in-flight messaging capability.

It was previously called the Capstone Safety Program. This Federal Aviation Administration-sponsored program was tested in Southwest Alaska, and was credited with a significant and immediate drop in the number of aircraft accidents. The equipment effectively replaces radar with a real-time digital tracking of aircraft.

The state-sponsored loan program was intended to spur the usage of a mechanism to finance the safety equipment.

“This is a fabulous program, and the application is a piece of cake,” said Hunt, a retired FAA safety inspector and commercial pilot.

Statewide aviation officials, dubbed the Capstone Statewide Agreement Implementation Committee, along with the FAA signed a memorandum of agreement in 2007 saying that the state would gather $34 million and would receive $493 million in services and infrastructure improvements from the federal agency once a quota of Alaska aircraft are equipped.

Palin signed Senate Bill 249, which provides the rules for the low-interest revolving loan program, on May 3 at the 11th annual Alaska State Trade Show and Conference.

Those in the aviation industry were slow to apply, however. Some point to the high fuel costs, which cuts into their extra funds to buy new equipment.

Current Alaska cost estimates range from $14,000 to $18,500 per aircraft for installation and the hardware.

Hunt, who spent $34,000, has installed the full suite of ADS-B equipment to qualify his privately owned aircraft for instrument flying.

Hunt paid for the equipment and installation before applying for the loan, and now has the option of being reimbursed. Hunt’s aircraft was equipped by Fairbanks-based avionics service and installation business Air Com.

“They ordered it and I paid for everything in advance, except the GDL-90 (a universal access transceiver), which I had them order after the loan was approved,” said Hunt.

The $14,000 GDL90 unit is now on order, and was expected to arrive in Fairbanks in mid-November.

Hunt approached state lending officials as they were soliciting loan applicants at the Aviation North Expo, held in Fairbanks Oct. 16-18.

“I talked to Geoff Whistler at ANE, took the paperwork home and filled in the squares,” said Hunt. “I brought it back the next handed it in and got the loan approval the next week.”

Whistler said that the department worked with Legislative Affairs officials to keep the application and credit process simple.

“We have worked very hard to keep this a simple and straight forward as possible,” said Whistler, who works with the Alaska Division of Investments.

Hunt is bullish on the equipment and says, “its air traffic avoidance at its best,” and that other aircraft owners should install it.

“Really this is so easy to get, the state has done a great job pulling this together,” said Hunt. “We have to get more aircraft equipped to get ADS-B compliant. The state needs the infrastructure improvements that will come with our compliance.”

The $5 million revolving loan program offers 4 percent interest over 10 years. It is being administered by the Alaska Division of Investments. The agency also has approved applications from Era Aviation for its Dash 8 aircraft, said Whistler, the lending manager.

“Really you have to credit the governor for seeing this through,” Whistler said. “She put the full weight of the governor’s office, pushed this through, rallied across political lines, and achieved this in a record period of time.”

ADS-B is touted as the replacement for radar in less congested areas of the U.S. and for use in rural and Third World locations.

11/20/2016 - 5:10pm