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  April 12th, 2016 | Written by

FAA Forecast Sees Continued, Steady Growth in Air Travel, Cargo

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  • Air cargo Revenue Ton Miles are expected grow to 72.6 billion by 2035 at an average annual growth rate of 3.6 percent.
  • Landings and take-offs at U.S. airports are expected to increase to 59.9 million operations in 2035.
  • FAA Administrator Michael Huerta: The improving economy bodes well for the U.S air transportation system.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today released an annual aviation forecast that shows the nation’s aviation system will continue to grow over the next two decades with greater numbers of people expected to fly more miles each year.

The data illustrates the growing demands on the nation’s air cargo system. As measured by Revenue Ton Miles (RTMs) – one ton of cargo flown one mile – is expected grow to 72.6 billion by 2035 at an average annual growth rate of 3.6 percent during the forecast period. In addition, landings and take-offs at FAA-operated towered airports and FAA-contracted towered airports are expected to increase from an estimated 49.6 million operations in 2014 to 59.9 million operations in 2035, an average rate of 0.9 percent per year.

The FAA Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years 2015 to 2035 (PDF) projects RPM growth for U.S. air carriers to average 2.5 percent per year over the 20-year forecast. Revenue Passenger Miles (RPMs) are the aviation standard for measuring air travel volume. An RPM represents one paying passenger traveling one mile. Load factor is a term that represents the average percentage of seats filled in commercial passenger aircraft. The report concluded that U.S. air carrier load factors were an estimated 83.4 percent in 2014. Load factors are projected to grow to 84.2 percent by 2035.

“The improving economy continues to bode well for the health of the U.S air transportation system,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “The FAA and industry are continuing to deploy next generation technologies and procedures to ensure that the nation’s aviation system can safely and efficiently meet our growing airspace demands.”

U.S. airlines served an estimated 756.3 million passengers in 2014, up by 2.3 percent from the 2013 level. The FAA forecast projects passenger growth to average 2.0 percent per year, reaching one billion passengers in 2029, and 1.14 billion by 2035.

To help the FAA and the aerospace system better prepare for the forecasted growth and future changes, the FAA and industry are working together to implement the NextGen air traffic modernization plan. To further expedite this effort, late last year the FAA and industry unveiled the NextGen Priorities Joint Implementation Plan.  Under the plan, the agency and industry share responsibility to meet specific milestones, locations, timelines and metrics for “high priority, high readiness” NextGen initiatives.

These initiatives include Multiple Runway Operations; Performance Based Navigation using satellites to move aircraft more quickly from point “A” to point “B;” and improved Surface and Data Communications.