Alaska may be the only state in the nation to make financial loans available to encourage aviation safety. This unique Capstone Program helps individual aircraft owners and aviation businesses finance avionics upgrades to take advantage of ADS-B and the WAAS GPS instrument approaches that have become key elements of the NextGen air transportation system. After being available for a dozen years, however, only 20 loans have been approved, and the program will sunset on July 1st 2020. It may still be worth considering, if you are planning upgrades that meet the program criteria.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Capstone Program pioneered the use of ADS-B and other technologies to improve aviation safety. From the time the demonstration project became operational in 2000 until 2006, the program demonstrated a 47% reduction in the accident rate for aircraft operating in southwest Alaska that were equipped with ADS-B, WAAS GPS navigators, and moving map displays compared to the non-equipped aircraft. Those technologies along with the installation of additional weather stations to support instrument approaches in the area contributed to this change. But it was recognized early on that the cost of equipping aircraft would be an issue. While the demonstration equipment had been funded by the FAA, subsequent equipage would be a financial burden on aircraft owners and operators.
On the strength of these results in accident reduction, to encourage use of this safety equipment in the state, the Alaska Legislature established the Capstone Avionics Loan Program in 2008. For the past 12 years, the program has made it possible for Alaskans to obtain a 4% fixed rate loan that will pay for 80% of the cost of installing ADS-B, GPS/WAAS navigation equipment and a multifunction display in aircraft that are principally operated in Alaska.
Not Many Takers
During the life of the program, only 20 loans have been approved. Seven of those went to private individuals and the remaining were taken out by businesses. I was one of the individuals that used this program to install ADS-B, and a WAAS GPS in my aircraft. The loan application process was straight forward. It required filling out a financial statement, information about the aircraft, providing a copy of my preceding year’s tax return and a $50 application fee. One detail that is worth noting–many people that are making upgrades choose to change out other components of their panel at the same time. In my case, I installed a Garmin G5 attitude indicator and directional gyro so I could ditch my vacuum system. It was no problem to have the avionics installer split the items that were eligible on a separate invoice from those that were outside the scope of the loan program. Once approved, the check was sent directly to the installer, and I only had to come up the remaining 20% at the time the bill was due.
Loan Program Sunsets Next July
The legislation that established the program has a sunset clause, and unless further action is taken it will be terminated on July 1st 2020. There are two important details related to that deadline:
First, if you haven’t yet equipped with any of this suite of equipment, there is still time. But don’t put it off much longer, as it does take time to have a loan application reviewed and approved. I would recommend calling the folks that run the program at the Division of Economic Development and review what you are planning, to figure if it fits your circumstances. They have offices and staff in Anchorage and Juneau that are a phone call away. They can be reached at (800) 478 5626 (toll free in Alaska) or (907) 465-2510 and ask to speak with one of their loan officers. Their office hours are 7:30am – 4:30pm, Monday – Friday.
Second, the low use of the program makes it hard to justify an extension. Please take the one-question survey to express your needs regarding this program: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/323WWR2
If you are considering purchasing ADS-B or WAAS GPS navigation equipment for your aircraft, this opportunity may be worth exploring. Don’t let a lack of current funds stop you from making technology upgrades that can help keep you and your passengers safe.
This article was initially published in the Alaska Airmen Association’s Transponder