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1 Billion Passengers Expected In 2021

top story photo FAA continues to predict long-term growth in the nation's skies, despite the current recession, but has pulled back from its forecast that U.S. airlines will carry 1 billion passengers by 2016. "We now believe the industry will reach this mark in 2021," agency officials said at the annual aviation forecast conference, being held this week in Washington, D.C. AAAE is cosponsoring the conference with FAA.

The agency's 16-year forecast for 2009-2025 predicts domestic passenger enplanements will decrease by 7.8 percent in 2009 and then grow at an average of 2.7 percent per year during the remaining 15-year forecast period. 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 said operations will grow at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent for the remainder of the forecast period.

The average size of domestic aircraft is expected to decline by 0.7 seats in 2009 to 120.1 seats, FAA said. Average seats per aircraft for mainline carriers are projected to fall by 0.8 seats as network carriers continue to reconfigure their domestic fleets. While demand for 70-90-seat aircraft continues to increase, FAA said it anticipates the number of 50-seat regional jets in service will fall.

FAA said the downturn in the economy has "dampened" prospects in the general aviation sector as well. "Longer-term, we see growth in business aviation demand driven by a growing U.S. and world economy," the agency said. "As the fleet grows, the number of general aviation hours flown is projected to increase an average of 1.8 percent a year through 2025."

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 agency said. FAA estimated that the cost of delays currently averages approximately $9.4 billion each year.

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