...Workload Up, Revenue Down...

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According to FAA predictions, the number of passengers boarding airliners in the U.S. will top one billion by 2015 compared to about 550 million this year. Couple that with a trend toward smaller aircraft on more direct flights and declining air fares (which are taxed to fund the FAA) and it looks like trouble is brewing -- or is it? Blakey and Mineta were careful to point out that the government is working on resolving air traffic issues. "We are redesigning airspace, deploying new software that will help increase capacity and putting new procedures in place," Blakey said. "We will be ready." What that form of readiness will be is another question. The current budget calls for a $600 million reduction in the Airport Improvement Program, according to AOPA, and $77 million less on air traffic control modernization (after a $400 million cut this year). To some legislators, the administrator's statements and the figures don't add up. "All indications are that air traffic will continue to grow," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Yet the Bush administration has decided that now is the time to impose dramatic cuts in our investment at improving safety and expanding capacity at our airports."