Business & GA, Commercial

Cautious Growth, Congestion Ahead

By Tish Drake | March 11, 2008
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FAA issued a more cautious aviation growth forecast on Monday, citing economic pressures, but said record congestion and delays seen in 2007 may continue in 2008. “The story for 2008 is clear. The fundamentals of the industry — continued growth, cheap ticket prices — are vibrant down the road. With that said, in the near term, we’re seeing a definite pause in growth. … We’re talking flat growth in operations, and slow growth in passengers,” Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell said. The forecast was presented Monday at an FAA conference in Washington. In terms of the NextGen technologies, Sturgell said, FAA is moving forward with plans to deploy ADS-B in the Gulf of Mexico this year and add more RNP approaches. FAA is increasing its production of RNP approaches this year, from 50 to 69, Sturgell said. Sturgell said FAA is deploying the Traffic Management Advisor to JFK and LaGuardia and connecting it to the Washington, D.C. area, which will allow controllers to sequence incoming planes more efficiently and achieve capacity gains of 3 to 5 percent. “We’re not waiting around for the Big Bang, or a flip of the switch. NextGen is a transformation and it’s happening now, and we’re moving ahead,” Sturgell said. In 2008, system capacity in available seat miles – FAA’s yardstick for how busy aviation is – will increase 2.7 percent, following last year’s increase of 2.6 percent. Very Light Jets (VLJ) are expected to be a big growth area, FAA said. VLJs, with their relatively inexpensive operating costs, may redefine “on-demand” air taxi service. Next year, FAA projects 400 units will join the fleet, with that figure growing to 450-500 a year through 2025. Partly because of the influx of new VLJs, the number of general aviation hours flown is projected to increase an average of 3 percent a year through 2025.

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