FAA Predicts Slow Growth For GA

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The general aviation fleet in the U.S. will continue to grow over the next 20 years, but at a rate of only 0.9 percent per year, the FAA said in its annual forecast, released on Tuesday. Fixed-wing turbine aircraft will sell best, growing at a projected rate of 3.1 percent each year. Rotorcraft are projected to sell 2.6 percent more each year, while fixed-wing pistons show the slowest growth, at only 0.2 percent per year. The FAA used the forecast release, which predicts U.S. air traffic overall will more than double by 2031, to push for NextGen funding. "We are already seeing the tangible safety and efficiency benefits of NextGen," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "Only a modernized air transportation system will be able to keep up with our forecasted demand."

The forecast also predicts that hours flown by general aviation turbine aircraft will grow by 4 percent per year, while rotorcraft hours grow at 3 percent and pistons only 0.7 percent. Total operations at control towers are expected to decrease by 0.6 percent this year, but then grow at an annual rate of 1.6 percent. General aviation IFR aircraft handled are projected to increase 2.1 percent this year. Thereafter, general aviation IFR flights grow at an average annual rate of 1.4 percent, reaching 8.9 million in 2031. The International Air Transport Association also released its annual forecast this week, predicting that by 2014 there will be 3.3 billion air travelers, 800 million more than the number who flew on the world's major airlines in 2009. Substantial growth is expected in China, the Middle East and Africa.