Juneau considers loans for quieter airplanes

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) Owners of noisy flightseeing airplanes could get low-interest loans for quieter engines under a plan under consideration by the Juneau Assembly.

If the assembly approves the loan program, Wings Airways will partner with the city to replace loud engines in two aircraft with quieter but costly turbine engines.

''We're trying to be good neighbors. We really are hoping these airplanes can provide some greater efficiencies for us,'' said Bob Jacobsen, a Wings Airways partner.

Wings Airways is the downtown-based operation affiliated with Wings of Alaska, a regional air carrier.

Under the proposed deal, the city would provide two loans of up to $250,000. The loans would be paid back at 2 percent interest over 10 years.

For nearly 20 years, Jacobsen said, the city, floatplane operators and downtown residents have been looking at ways to minimize noise created by planes taking off from and landing at the downtown waterfront. Turbine engines are significantly quieter.

The assembly has set aside money from cruise ship passenger fees to provide loans to air carriers.

A standard piston engine for a 10-seat Otter floatplane costs about $30,000. The price tag to retrofit an Otter with a turbine engine is more than $500,000.

Wings Airways has offered to replace two Otter engines from its fleet of six with the help of a $500,000 low-interest loan from the city and another $500,000 of private financing.

''We're willing to bite off two and incur a million worth of debt to try to make improvements,'' Jacobsen said.

''In 2004, the residents can evaluate for themselves if it's made a big difference, and we'll take a look at our operating costs,'' he said.

The assembly will discuss the loan to Wings Airways next week.

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