WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA is forecasting that key airspace safety and efficiency modernization efforts will play a vital role in spurring long-term sustained growth in air travel and the nation’s overall economic health.
The forecast, which comes after a short-term period of slow growth in aviation activity, underscores the need for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and continued investment in airport infrastructure projects, officials said upon releasing it March 9.
“A safe, efficient and vibrant aviation system is vital to our nation’s economic health,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “We must find long-term solutions that will keep the U.S. aviation industry competitive and moving forward into the future.”
While much of the forecast deals with airlines, there are some GA-specific predictions as well:
- The general aviation fleet will increase from 229,149 aircraft in 2009 to 278,723 in 2030, growing an average of 0.9% a year.
- Fixed-wing turbine aircraft will grow at a rate of 3.1% per year, fixed-wing piston aircraft will grow at a rate of 0.1% per year, and rotorcraft will grow at a rate of 2.8% per year.
- General aviation hours flown are forecast to increase from 23.3 million in 2009 to 38.9 million in 2030, an average annual growth rate of 2.5% a year.
- Fixed-wing turbine aircraft hours flown will grow at a rate of 4.6% per year, fixed-wing piston aircraft hours flown will grow at a rate of 1% a year, and rotorcraft hours flown will grow at a rate of 3% per year.
The 20-year forecast calls for total operations at airports to decrease 2.7% to 51.5 million in 2010, and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.5%, reaching 69.6 million in 2030. At the nation’s 35 busiest airports, operations are expected to increase 60% from 2010 to 2030.
“This forecast makes a very strong business case for NextGen,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Without NextGen, we won’t be able to handle the increased demand for service that this forecast anticipates.”
NextGen is transforming air traffic control from the ground-based radar system of today to a satellite-based system of the future. FAA officials say NextGen technologies and procedures will increase capacity and safety and reduce fuel burn, carbon emissions and noise by providing more efficient air routes and procedures. Other innovations include improved weather forecasting, data networking and digital communications. Hand in hand with these state-of-the-art technologies are airport improvements that are beginning to give pilots and controllers a more precise picture of the location of aircraft and vehicles on runways and taxiways.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is providing significant infrastructure improvements to meet growing airspace needs, FAA officials note. It has provided $1.1 billion to airports nationwide. To date, 326 grants for over 360 projects have been distributed to airports that support passenger and cargo service as well as general aviation. Recovery Act grants are being used at both urban and rural airports to fund a variety of different modernization efforts including facility construction, safety enhancements and the rehabilitation of runways, taxiways and other infrastructure.
Other forecasts in the report deal with workload. For instance, operations at airports with FAA Traffic Control and Contract Tower Service are forecast to decrease 2.7% to 51.5 million in 2010, and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.5% for the remainder of the forecast period, reaching 69.6 million in 2030. The average annual growth rate for the entire 21-year forecast period is 1.3% percent. General aviation operations are forecast to decrease 3.1% in 2010, and grow at a rate of 1.3% thereafter, totaling 35.1 million in 2030.
Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) operations are forecast to decrease 1.1% to 39 million in 2010, and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.7% for the remainder of the forecast period, reaching 54.4 million in 2030. The average annual growth rate for the entire 21-year forecast period is 1.5%. General aviation TRACON operations are expected to decrease 0.3% in 2010, and grow at a rate of 1.2% thereafter, totaling 17.9 million in 2030.
Instument Flight Rules (IFR) aircraft handled at FAA air route traffic control centers are forecast to decrease to 39.4 million (-1.6%) in 2010 and then grow 2.5% a year over the remaining 20 years of the forecast period, reaching 64.1 million in 2030. General aviation IFR aircraft handled is expected to decrease 2.7% during 2010. Thereafter, general aviation IFR aircraft handled is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 0.9%, reaching 7.3 million in 2030.
For more information: FAA.gov