Alaska Statewide Expansion of ADS-B Services


The Capstone Project began in Southwest Alaska in FY2001. It was designed to seek aviation safety and efficiency gains by accelerating new technology in Alaska and demonstrating capabilities for use nationally. Capstone linked multiple technology initiatives under the FAA, the Alaskan community, and aviation industry. One of these new technologies was ADS-B. Under Capstone, the FAA provided ADS-B ground equipment, avionics and datalink communication suites for commercial aircraft. The FAA also deployed a ground infrastructure for weather observation, datalink communications, surveillance, and Flight Information Services to improve safety and enable eventual implementation of new procedures.

The FAA integrated the Capstone Project into the Surveillance and Broadcast Services (SBS) program in January 2007 to streamline the national ADS-B deployment and accrue safety benefits for Alaska more quickly by accelerating the deployment of ADS-B technologies in the state. The SBS WSA office is responsible for deploying ADS-B in its designated states, including Alaska, and continuing to improve rural access by upgrading airports from Visual Flight Rules to Instrument Flight Rules.

Status of ADS-B in Alaska

The FAA understands that voluntary self equipage is the key to success for ADS-B. To ensure the minimum amount of equipage necessary to make ADS-B the primary means of surveillance in the United States, the FAA has proposed a rule mandating “ADS-B Out” in certain airspace (ADS-B Out transmits location information from the aircraft). The proposed rule only affects airspace generally covered by the transponder rule, so it will not affect much of the airspace in Alaska. Nor does the proposal mandate “ADS-B In,” which provides many of the safety benefits of the new system, including traffic and weather displays in the cockpit. The ADS-B deployment in Alaska and the rest of the nation relies on operators voluntarily equipping to derive safety benefits and operate more efficiently.

In February 2007, the FAA, Helicopter Association International, Alaskan aviation industry, and Alaskan aircraft operators signed a Memorandum of Agreement to establish a government/industry relationship to support safer aviation and increase rural access in Alaska. The agreement established an Agreement Implementation Committee (AIC) to develop a plan that, among other things, outlines a detailed ADS-B avionics equipage assistance program, avionics equipage financing options, and a schedule for avionics equipage. This is the Statewide Equipment Incentive Plan, or SEIP.

Also as a result of the agreement, the “Surveillance and Broadcast Services Capstone Statewide Plan” was signed by FAA and industry in August 2007. Under this plan, the FAA is offering additional funding to expand ADS-B ground coverage more quickly, if the state will help equip approximately 4,000 Alaskan aircraft to make the expansion worthwhile.

Hank Krakowski, chief operating officer of the FAA Air Traffic Organization, sent a letter in December 2007 to Alaska Governor Sarah Palin emphasizing the FAA's support of the committee's efforts to obtain state funding (see letter below). In addition, it outlined the FAA's plans for a potential acceleration of the ADS-B deployment based on funding from the state to encourage equipage.

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