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FAA Forecast Links Aviation, National Economic Growth

March 9, 2010 By: George Dooley

Domestic passenger enplanements will increase by 0.5 percent in 2010 and then grow an average of 2.5 percent per year during the remaining forecast period, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says in a new forecast. Total operations at airports are forecast to decrease 2.7 percent to 51.5 million in 2010 and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent, reaching 69.6 million in 2030. At the nation's 35 busiest airports, operations are expected to increase 60 percent from 2010 to 2030, the FAA says. The 20-year forecast covers the Fiscal Years 2010-2030.

The FAA predicts 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.

“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.”

The FAA predicts that U.S. airlines will reach one billion passengers a year by 2023, and the number of passengers on U.S. airlines domestically and internationally is forecast to increase from 704 million in 2009 to 1.21 billion by 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. “These advancements are already showing safety, efficiency and environmental benefits," the FAA says. "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.



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