The FAA released its estimates at the Thirty-seventh Annual FAA Forecast Conference in Washington, D.C., March 8 and 9, predicting that airline passenger miles will nearly double in the next two decades, from 815 billion in 2011 to 1.57 trillion in 2032, at an average annual increase of 3.2 percent.
As airliners get more crowded, the FAA predicts a steady increase in GA hours flown, fueled by increases in corporate profits and travel.
The FAA predicts the GA fleet will grow an average of 0.6 percent through 2032, from an estimated 222,520 in 2011 to 253,205 aircraft.
“The more expensive and sophisticated turbine-powered fleet (including rotorcraft) is projected to grow at an average of 2.9 percent a year over the forecast period, with the turbine jet portion increasing at 4 percent a year,” the FAA report states.
The piston fleet of 159,007 aircraft is expected to shrink to 151,685 by 2023, when a slight upswing is predicted, with a total of 155,395 active piston aircraft expected by 2023.
Experts expressed concern about the continued decline in the pilot population, a decade-long trend that continues despite a surge in the number of active student pilots associated with expansion of medical certificate duration for pilots under age 40 from three to five years.
The GA pilot population is expected to increase by 0.3 percent per year, but the student pilot population is forecast to decline from 118,657 in 2011 to 116,720 by 2032. That estimate includes an expected boom in sport pilot certificates, increasing from 4,066 as of Dec. 31, 2011, to 13,900 by 2032. The number of private pilot certificates is expected to increase from 194,441 to 199,300 by 2032, an average growth rate of 0.1 percent.
The FAA has posted documents and videos from the annual conference.