The sluggish economy will put the brakes on growth in the U.S. commercial air industry, according to a FAA forecast released Tuesday.
FAA’s Annual Aerospace Forecast predicts domestic passenger enplanements will increase modestly, by 0.5 percent, in 2010, and then grow an average of 2.5 percent per year until 2030. In the short-term, the agency expects to see declines in both domestic and international capacity as carriers respond to the economic downturn. U.S. airlines will reach 1 billion passengers a year by 2023, two years later than earlier forecasted.
At the forecast conference in Washington on Tuesday, FAA, Department of Transportation and industry officials called on the industry to step up its emphasis on implementing Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technologies to improve efficiency and accommodate the increase in traffic.
“I believe that this aviation forecast is a major point in a very strong business case for NextGen. If you’re thinking that because the numbers are down, there’s no need for NextGen or airport improvements, I would counter that it is unwise to make long-term decisions with short-term information,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
Industry officials also stressed their support for NextGen and called on industry leaders to speed up equipage incentives for NextGen technologies. “What excites me most about NextGen is its potential,” said James May, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association. “What concerns me most is when we’re going to implement NextGen … Right now, I don’t think NextGen is the national priority that it needs to be.”
Babbitt will give a keynote address at the RTCA Spring Symposium in Washington on April 6. For more information, or to register, visit www.aviationtoday.com/symposium/.