The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aerospace Forecast Fiscal Years (FY) 2020-2040
NOTE: The FAA prepared this data before COVID-19 restrictions were placed on air travel to, from, and within the United States.
I. SUMMARY: 2019 ECONOMIC ACTIVITY AND AIR TRAVEL
- In Calendar Year (CY) 2019, U.S. real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 2.3 percent; world real GDP increased 2.6 percent.
- Domestic mainline air carrier yields rose 1.5 percent while international yields declined 0.9 percent in 2019. In real terms (adjusted for inflation in FY 2019 dollars), domestic yields decreased 0.4 percent and international yields decreased 2.7 percent.
- Domestic enplanements on mainline (large) and regional air carriers increased from 780.8 million in 2018 to 813.3 million (4.2 percent) in 2019. Domestic mainline carrier enplanements increased 4.3 percent while domestic regional carrier enplanements increased 3.7 percent. International enplanements on mainline and regional air carriers increased from 99.6 million in 2018 to 103.4 million (3.8 percent) in 2019. Mainline carrier international enplanements were up 4.1 percent while regional carrier international enplanements decreased 4.4 percent.
- Domestic Revenue Passenger Miles (RPMs) by mainline and regional air carriers increased from 719.8 billion in 2018 to 752.2 billion (4.5 percent) in 2019. Domestic mainline carrier RPMs increased 4.5 percent while domestic regional carrier RPMs increased 4.8 percent. International RPMs by U.S. carriers increased from 280.9 billion in 2018 to 291.8 billion (3.9 percent) in 2019. Total system RPMs increased from 1.00 trillion in 2018 to 1.04 trillion (4.3 percent) in 2019. Total mainline carrier RPMs increased by 4.3 percent while total regional carrier RPMs increased by 4.6 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 2019, total landings and takeoffs at combined FAA and contract towers were up 2.9 percent from 2018. Commercial activity increased by 2.7 and general aviation activity increased 3.3 percent.
II. ECONOMIC ASSUMPTIONS FOR FAA FORECASTS
- U.S. real GDP forecast to increase from $19.0 trillion in 2019 to $28.4 trillion in 2040, an average annual rate of 1.9 percent. World GDP is forecast to grow at a faster pace of 2.8 percent over the same 21-year period, from $83.6 trillion to $146.5 trillion.
|Real GDP by World Region (Average Annual Percent Growth|
- U.S. inflation is projected to increase 2.1 percent in 2020 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 1.04 trillion in 2019 to 1.79 trillion in 2040, an average annual rate of 2.6 percent. Domestic RPMs are projected to increase 5.7 percent in 2020 and then grow an average of 2.2 percent per year during the remaining 20-year forecast period. International RPMs are forecast to increase 4.1 percent in 2020 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 916.7 million in 2019 to 1.47 billion in 2040, an average annual rate of 2.3 percent. Domestic enplanements are projected to increase 5.5 percent in 2020 and then grow an average of 2.0 percent per year during the remaining 20-year forecast period. International enplanements are forecast to increase 2.7 percent in 2020 and then grow an average of 3.1 percent per year for the rest of the forecast period.
Mainline Air Carriers
- U.S. mainline carrier domestic RPMs are forecast to increase 5.7 percent in 2020 and grow at an average annual rate of 2.2 percent for the remaining 20 years of the forecast period. U.S. mainline carrier domestic enplanements are forecast to increase 5.5 percent in 2020. For the remaining 20 years of the forecast period, enplanements grow at an average annual rate of 2.0 percent, reaching 1.02 billion in 2040.
- U.S. mainline carrier international RPMs are forecast to increase 2.6 percent in 2020 and grow at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent for the remaining 20 years of the forecast period. U.S. mainline carrier international enplanements are forecast to increase 2.6 percent in 2020, and then grow an average of 3.2 percent per year thereafter, reaching 191.9 million in 2040. The fastest growing region is Latin America (3.8 percent per year), followed by the Atlantic (2.2 percent per year), and Asia/Pacific (2.2 percent per year).
|U.S. Mainline Air Carriers |
Enplanements by World Region
(Average Annual Percent Growth)
- Total passengers to/from the United States (United States and foreign flag carriers) are projected to increase 2.9 percent in CY 2020. The average annual rate of growth between 2020 and 2040 is 3.3 percent, with passengers increasing from 259.4 million to 495.9 million. The fastest growing regions are Asia/Pacific at 3.5 percent per year along with Latin America (3.5 percent per year), followed by Canadian Trans-border (3.2 percent per year) and Atlantic (3.1 percent per year).
|U.S. Mainline and Foreign Flag Air Carriers|
Passengers by World Region
(Average Annual Percentage Growth)
|Total U.S./Foreign Flag||5.4||3.2||2.9||3.3|
- Domestic mainline passenger real yield (adjusted for inflation) is forecast to decrease from 14.12 cents in 2019 to 13.87 cents in 2020 (down 1.8 percent). Thereafter, domestic mainline carrier real yield declines at an average rate of 0.5 percent dropping to 12.62 cents in 2040. International mainline real yield is forecast to decrease from 13.47 cents in 2019 to 13.38 cents in 2020 (down 0.6 percent). Thereafter, international real yield declines at a rate of 0.6 percent annually, falling to 11.86 cents by 2040.
|U.S. Mainline Air Carriers|
(Average Annual Percent Growth)
- U.S. mainline air carrier passenger jet fleet increases from 4,282 aircraft in 2020 to 5,310 aircraft in 2040, an average annual increase of 1.1 percent. The fleet is projected to decrease by 2.4 percent (106 aircraft) from 2019 to 2020, due to a reduction in both widebody and narrowbodies.
- Regional carrier enplanements are forecast to increase 5.4 percent to 171.6 million in 2020, and grow 2.0 percent a year thereafter, reaching 253.6 million in 2040.
|U.S. Regional Air Carrier Enplanements|
(Average Annual Percent Growth)
- Regional carrier RPMs are forecast to increase 5.9 percent in 2020 and grow at an average annual rate of 2.4 percent for the remaining 20 years of the forecast period.
- The regional carrier passenger aircraft fleet decreases from 2,362 aircraft in 2020 to 2,320 aircraft in 2040, an average annual decrease of 0.1 percent. The fleet is projected to shrink 0.04 percent (1 aircraft) in 2020.
- Regional jets increase from 1,876 aircraft in 2020 to 2,192 aircraft in 2040, an annual increase of 0.8 percent.
- Total air cargo RTMs (RTMs)(freight/express and mail) increase from 42.9 billion in 2019 to 88.6 billion in 2040—up an average of 3.5 percent a year; domestic RTMs increase 1.9 percent a year; international RTMs increase 4.3 percent a year.
|U.S. Commercial Air Carriers|
Air Cargo Revenue Ton Miles
(Average Annual Percent)
- The cargo fleet increases from 906 aircraft in 2020 to 1,791 aircraft in 2040, an average increase of 3.5 percent a year.
- The active general aviation fleet slightly declines from 212,335 aircraft in CY 2019 to 210,380 in CY 2040, changing an average of 0.0 percent a year (0.9 percent over the forecast period).
- Fixed-wing turbine aircraft fleet grows at a rate of 1.8 percent per year, single-engine piston aircraft fleet declines at a rate of 1.0 percent per year, and rotorcraft fleet grows at a rate of 1.6 percent per year.
- General aviation hours flown are forecast to increase from 25.9 million in CY 2019 to 30.2 million in 2040, an average annual growth rate of 0.7 percent a year.
- Fixed-wing turbine aircraft hours flown grow at a rate of 2.2 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 2.1 percent per year.
IV. FAA WORKLOAD FORECASTS
Operations at Airports with FAA Traffic Control and Contract Tower Service
- Total operations are forecast to increase from 53 million in 2019, growing at an average annual rate of 0.94 percent for the forecast period, reaching close to 64 million in 2040.
- Commercial operations grow at a rate of 1.6 percent,
- General aviation operations grow at a rate of 0.4 percent, totaling 29.7 million in 2040.
Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Operations
- TRACON are forecasted to grow at an average annual rate of 1.1 percent for the forecast period, reaching 49.4 million in 2040.
- Commercial TRACON operations increased 2.9 percent in 2019, and are forecasted to grow at a rate of 1.4 percent thereafter, reaching 31.2 million in 2040.
- General aviation TRACON operations are forecasted to grow at a rate of 0.2 percent thereafter, totaling 11.6 million in 2040.
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 1.5 percent a year from 43.7 million in 2019 to 59.7 million in 2040.
- Commercial ARTCC aircraft handled grows at a rate of 1.7 percent, totaling 51.2 million in 2040.
- GA ARTCC aircraft handled grows at a rate of about 0.5 percent, totaling close to 7 million in 2040.
V. UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM (UAS) FORECASTS
- The recreational, small model UAS fleet is forecast to grow in size from 1.32 million vehicles in 2019 to 1.48 million units in 2024. The average annual growth rate over the five-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 2024 will likely be about 1.59 million units. In the low case, the small model UAS fleet by 2024 will likely be about 1.39 million units.
- The commercial, small non-model UAS fleet is forecast to grow from 385,450 in 2019 to 828,337 in 2024. The average annual growth rate over the 5-year forecast period is 17 percent.
- The FAA’s small 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 FAA has also developed high and low ranges around the small commercial UAS fleet forecast. In the high case, the small commercial UAS fleet will likely be around 1.2 million units while in the low case, it will likely be around 598,000 units by 2024. The main difference in the high and base forecasts is the differing assumptions on how quickly the regulatory environment will evolve, enabling routine uses of UAS for commercial purposes.
- The number of remote pilots are forecast to increase from 162,185 in 2019 to 348,537 in 2024. The average annual growth rate over the 5-year forecast period is 16.5 percent.
Larger UAS (over 55lbs)
- This is the first year that the FAA is providing forecasts for larger UAS. Larger UAS combines both civilian, defense, government agencies with projected commercial uses. The fleet is expected to grow from a nascent 206 in 2019 to 407 in 2024. Correspondingly, number of flights is expected to grow from 8,240 in 2019 to 16,280 in 2024, registering an annual average growth rate of over 14 percent.
 Years are FY unless indicated otherwise as CY.
 Mainline air carriers are defined as those providing service primarily via aircraft with 90 or more seats.
 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.
 An RPM is one passenger traveling one mile.
 An RTM is one ton of cargo transported one mile.
 An airport operation is a landing or a take-off.