Aviation Activity to Resume Growth as Economy Returns Forecast Reflects Current Downturn; Long-Term Prospects Sound

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) annual aviation forecast released today predicts a return to growth for air travel in the long term, underscoring the need for vital aviation infrastructure and environmental improvements contained in the FAA’s comprehensive Next Generation Air Transportation System plan.

“A vibrant, efficient and green aviation system will play a key role in our nation’s economic recovery,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “The Obama Administration is committed to essential safety and efficiency advancements that will meet our continued air travel demands.”

Due to the current worldwide economic downturn, the FAA’s 16-year forecast for 2009-2025 predicts domestic passenger enplanements to decrease by 7.8 percent in 2009 and then grow an average of 2.7 percent per year during the remaining 15-year forecast period. While last year the FAA predicted the U.S. airlines would reach a billion passengers a year by 2016, today’s forecast projects U.S. airlines to reach one billion air travelers annually by 2021. The number of passengers on U.S. airlines domestically and internationally is forecast to increase from 757.4 million in 2008 to 1.1 billion in 2025.

U.S. aircraft operations are predicted to experience a 5.7 percent decrease in 2009 from 2008 levels. Beginning in 2010, the agency expects operations to grow at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent for the remainder of the forecast period.

The Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, is a key to transformation of the ground-based air traffic control radar system of today to a satellite-based system of the future and necessary for FAA to meet the safety, efficiency and environmental needs of the future. The FAA estimates that the cost of delays currently averages approximately $9.4 billion each year. Environmentally-friendly NextGen technologies and procedures will increase capacity and safety and reduce fuel burn, carbon emissions, and noise. A fact sheet about NextGen can be found at: http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=8768

Today’s FAA forecast was unveiled at an annual forecast conference in Washington that gathers members of the aviation community to discuss how the forecast projections may affect policies and plans for aviation. Additional details on the forecast, including information on general aviation, cargo demand, landing and takeoff operations at airports and FAA facilities, can be found at the forecast website at: http://www.faa.gov/data_research/aviation/aerospace_forecasts/2009-2025/.

A fact sheet on the forecast is also available at: http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=10457.