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Fact Sheet – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years (FY) 2019-2039

For Immediate Release

April 30, 2019
Contact: Hank Price
Phone: 202-267-3883


I. 2018[1] SUMMARY: ECONOMIC ACTIVITY AND AIR TRAVEL 

  • In Calendar Year (CY) 2018, U.S. real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 2.9 percent; world real GDP increased 3.2 percent.
  • Domestic mainline air carrier[2] yields were flat while international yields increased 5.5 percent in 2017. In real terms (adjusted for inflation in FY 2018 dollars), domestic yields decreased 2.3 percent and international yields increased 3.0 percent.
  • Domestic enplanements on mainline (large) and regional air carriers[3] increased from 743.9 million in 2017 to 780.8 million (5.0 percent) in 2018. Domestic mainline carrier enplanements increased 5.4 percent while domestic regional carrier enplanements increased 3.4 percent. International enplanements on mainline and regional air carriers increased from 96.9 million in 2017 to 99.6 million (2.8 percent) in 2018. Mainline carrier international enplanements were up 2.9 percent while regional carrier international enplanements decreased 1.8 percent.
  • Domestic Revenue Passenger Miles (RPMs[4]) by mainline and regional air carriers increased from 683.6 billion in 2017 to 720.2 billion (5.4 percent) in 2018. Domestic mainline carrier RPMs increased 5.5 percent while domestic regional carrier RPMs increased 4.4 percent.  International RPMs by U.S. carriers increased from 271.3 billion in 2017 to 280.6 billion (3.4 percent) in 2018. Total system RPMs increased from 954.8 billion in 2017 to 1.00 trillion (4.8 percent) in 2018. Total mainline carrier RPMs increased by 4.9 percent while total regional carrier RPMs increased by 4.0 percent.
  • U.S. commercial air carriers (including passenger and cargo) reported an operating profit of $21.0 billion in 2018, compared to an operating profit of $24.6 billion in 2017. Operating revenues increased 8.0 percent in 2018, while operating expenses increased 11.5 percent.
  • In 2018, total landings and takeoffs at combined FAA and contract towers were up 2.8 percent from 2017. Air carrier activity increased by 4.3 percent while commuter/air taxi activity decreased by 0.7 percent. General aviation activity increased 3.3 percent while military aircraft activity decreased 2.1 percent. 

II. ECONOMIC ASSUMPTIONS FOR FAA FORECASTS 

  • U.S. real GDP forecast to increase from $19.5 trillion in 2018 to $28.6 trillion in 2039, an average annual rate of 1.8 percent.  World GDP is forecast to grow at a faster pace of 2.8 percent over the same 21-year period, from $81.2 trillion to $144.4 trillion. 
Real GDP by World Region (Average Annual Percent Growth
World RegionFY
2017
 
2018
 
2019
 
2019-39
CY
2017

2018

2019

2019-39
United States2.12.72.61.82.22.92.41.8
Worldn/an/an/an/a3.33.22.92.8
Canadan/an/an/an/a3.02.12.92.8
Europe/Afr/MEn/an/an/an/a2.62.11.01.9
Latin American/an/an/an/a1.91.41.72.8
Asia/Pacificn/an/an/an/a5.14.94.74.0
  • U.S. inflation is projected to increase 2.0 percent in 2019 and remain moderate over the remaining 20 years of the forecast period, averaging 2.2 percent annually. 

III. AVIATION ACTIVITY FORECASTS     

Mainline Air Carrier and Regionals

  • Total mainline air carrier and regional RPMs are forecast to increase from 1.00 trillion in 2018 to 1.61 trillion in 2039, an average annual rate of 2.3 percent. Domestic RPMs are projected to increase 4.8 percent in 2019 and then grow an average of 1.9 percent per year during the remaining 20-year forecast period. International RPMs are forecast to increase 3.2 percent in 2019 and then grow an average of 3.0 percent per year for the rest of the forecast period. 
  • Total mainline air carrier and regional enplanements are forecast to increase from 880.5 million in 2018 to 1.30 billion in 2039, an average annual rate of 1.9 percent. Domestic enplanements are projected to increase 4.5 percent in 2019 and then grow an average of 1.6 percent per year during the remaining 20-year forecast period.  International enplanements are forecast to increase 2.0 percent in 2019 and then grow an average of 3.0 percent per year for the rest of the forecast period. 

Mainline Air Carriers 

  • U.S. mainline carrier domestic RPMs are forecast to increase 4.8 percent in 2019 and grow at an average annual rate of 1.9 percent for the remaining 20 years of the forecast period. U.S. mainline carrier domestic enplanements are forecast to increase 4.6 percent in 2019. For the remaining 20 years of the forecast period, enplanements grow at an average annual rate of 1.6 percent, reaching 901.2 million in 2039.
  • U.S. mainline carrier international RPMs are forecast to increase 3.2 percent in 2019 and grow at an average annual rate of 3.0 percent for the remaining 20 years of the forecast period. U.S. mainline carrier enplanements are forecast to increase 1.9 percent in 2019, and then grow an average of 3.1 percent per year thereafter, reaching 179.6 million in 2039. The fastest growing region is Latin America (3.5 percent per year), followed by the Atlantic (2.3 percent per year), and Asia/Pacific (2.2 percent per year).
U.S. Mainline Air Carriers
Enplanements by World Region
(Average Annual Percent Growth)
World RegionFY
2017

2018

2019
 
2019-39
Domestic3.65.44.61.6
International
–Atlantic
–Latin America
–Asia/Pacific
4.0
1.9
6.3
(0.8)
2.9
4.9
3.9
(4.4)
1.9
4.2
1.1
0.9
3.1
2.3
3.5
2.2
Total3.65.04.21.8
  • Total passengers to/from the United States (United States and foreign flag carriers) are projected to increase 3.9 percent in CY 2019. The average annual rate of growth between 2019 and 2039 is 3.4 percent, with passengers increasing from 253.8 million to 491.1 million. The fastest growing region is Asia/Pacific at 3.6 percent per year, followed by Latin America (3.5 percent per year), Canadian Trans-border (3.3 percent per year) and Atlantic (3.0 percent per year). 
U.S. Mainline and Foreign Flag Air Carriers
Passengers by World Region
(Average Annual Percentage Growth)
World RegionCY
2017

2018

2019

2019-39
Total U.S./Foreign Flag5.45.33.93.4
Atlantic6.47.14.63.0
Latin America4.64.33.63.5
Asia/Pacific4.83.23.73.6
Canadian Transborder5.66.43.43.3
  • Domestic mainline passenger real yield (adjusted for inflation) is forecast to decrease from 13.91 cents in 2018 to 13.66 cents in 2019 (down 1.8 percent). Thereafter, domestic mainline carrier real yield declines at an average rate of 0.6 percent dropping to 12.22 cents in 2039. International mainline real yield is forecast to decrease from 13.60 cents in 2018 to 13.52 cents in 2019 (down 0.6 percent).  Thereafter, international real yield declines at a rate of 0.6 percent annually, falling to 11.98 cents by 2039.
U.S. Mainline Air Carriers
Real Yield
(Average Annual Percent Growth)
RegionFY
2017

2018

2019

2019-39
Domestic(2.3)(2.3)(1.8)(0.6)
International(1.9)3.0(0.6)(0.6)
  • U.S. mainline air carrier passenger jet fleet increases from 4,140 aircraft in 2019 to 5,316 aircraft in 2039, an average annual increase of 1.3 percent.  The fleet is projected to edge down by 0.1 percent (3 aircraft) from 2018 to 2019, due to a reduction in widebody aircraft that just outweighs the increase in narrowbodies. 

Regional Carriers 

  • Regional carrier enplanements are forecast to increase 4.0 percent to 163.6 million in 2019, and grow 1.6 percent a year thereafter, reaching 224.1 million in 2039.
U.S. Regional Air Carrier Enplanements
(Average Annual Percent Growth)
RegionFY
2017

2018

2019

2019-39
Domestic(1.9)3.44.01.6
International(3.0)(1.8)4.01.6
  • Regional carrier RPMs are forecast to increase 4.5 percent in 2019 and grow at an average annual rate of 2.0 percent for the remaining 20 years of the forecast period.
  • The regional carrier passenger aircraft fleet decreases from 2,187 aircraft in 2019 to 2,022 aircraft in 2039, an average annual decrease of 0.4 percent. The fleet is projected to shrink 4.8 percent (111 aircraft) in 2019.

    - Regional jets increase from 1,745 aircraft in 2019 to 1,877 aircraft in 2039, an annual increase of 0.4  percent.

Cargo

  • Total air cargo RTMs (RTMs)[5](freight/express and mail) increase from 42.8 billion in 2018 to 84.3 billion in 2039—up an average of 3.3 percent a year; domestic RTMs increase 1.2 percent a year; international RTMs increase 4.2 percent a year.
U.S. Commercial Air Carriers
Air Cargo Revenue Ton Miles
(Average Annual Percent)
RegionFY
2017

2018
 
2019

2019-39
Domestic9.97.71.71.2
International10.710.05.44.1
Total10.49.14.13.2
  • The cargo fleet increases from 889 aircraft in 2019 to 1,587 aircraft in 2039, an average increase of 2.9 percent a year. 

General Aviation 

  • The active general aviation fleet holds steady at 212,885 aircraft in CY 2018 compared with 211,800 in CY 2039, growing an average of 0.0 percent a year.

    - Fixed-wing turbine aircraft grow at a rate of 1.8 percent per year, single-engine piston aircraft decline at a rate of 1.0 percent per year, and rotorcraft grow at a rate of 1.7 percent per year.|
  • General aviation hours flown are forecast to increase from 25.6 million in CY 2018 to 30.3 million in 2039, an average annual growth rate of 0.8 percent a year.

    - Fixed-wing turbine aircraft hours flown grow at a rate of 2.5 percent per year, single-engine piston aircraft hours flown decline at a rate of 1.1 percent per year, and rotorcraft hours flown grow at a rate of 2.0 percent per year.

IV. FAA WORKLOAD FORECASTS         

Operations at Airports with FAA Traffic Control and Contract Tower Service

  • Total operations[6] are forecast to increase from 51.8 million in 2018, growing at an average annual rate of 0.9 percent for the forecast period, reaching 62.0 million in 2039. 

    - Commercial operations grow at a rate of 1.5 percent, reaching 31.0 million in 2039.

    - General aviation operations grow at a rate of 0.4 percent, totaling 28.5 million in 2039.

Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Operations 

  • TRACON operations are forecast to increase from 38.9 million in 2018, growing at an average annual rate of 1.0 percent for the forecast period, reaching 48.1 million in 2039. 

    - Commercial TRACON operations increase 2.5 percent in 2018, and grow at a rate of 1.4 percent thereafter, reaching 31.1 million in 2039.

    - General aviation TRACON operations increase 1.8 percent in 2018, and grow at a rate of 0.4 percent thereafter, totaling 14.7 million in 2039. 

Aircraft Handled at Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) 

  • Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) aircraft handled at FAA ARTCCs are forecast to grow at a rate of 1.4 percent a year from 2019-2039.

V. UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM (UAS) FORECASTS         

Model Fleet

  • The small model UAS fleet is forecast to grow in size from 1.2 million vehicles in 2018 to 1.4 million units in 2023. The average annual growth rate over the fivc-year forecast period is 2.2 percent.
  • The FAA has also developed high and low ranges around the small model UAS fleet forecast reflecting uncertainty about the publics’ continued adoption of this new technology.
  • In the high case, the small model UAS fleet by 2023 is about 1.7 million units.  In the low case, the small model UAS fleet by 2023 is about 1.3 million units.

Non-Model Fleet

  • The commercial, small non-model UAS fleet is forecast to grow from 277,386 in 2018 to 835,211 in 2023. The average annual growth rate over the 5-year forecast period is 24.7 percent.
  • The FAA’s small non-model (commercial) UAS fleet size forecast contains certain broad assumptions about operating limitations for small UAS during the next five years based on the basic constraints of the existing regulations including daytime operations, within visual line of sight, and a single pilot operating only one small UAS at a time. The main difference in the high and base forecasts is the differing assumptions on how quickly the regulatory environment will evolve, enabling the more widespread routine uses of UAS for commercial purposes.
  • In a high case, the small non-model fleet is 1.3 million in 2023. The average annual growth rate over the 5-year forecast period is 36.0 percent.

Remote Pilots 

  • The number of remote pilots are forecast to increase from 116,027 in 2018 to 349,358 in 2023.  The average annual growth rate over the 5-year forecast period is 24.7 percent.

 



[1] Years are FY unless indicated otherwise as CY.

[2] Mainline air carriers are defined as those providing service primarily via aircraft with 90 or more seats.

[3] Regional air carriers are defined as those providing service primarily via aircraft with 89 or less seats and whose routes serve mainly as feeders to the mainline carriers.

[4] An RPM is one passenger traveling one mile.

[5] An RTM is one ton of cargo transported one mile.

[6] An airport operation is a landing or a take-off.

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This page was originally published at: https://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=23575