The US Federal Aviation Administration has unveiled its latest commercial aviation forecast showing continued growth in the US domestic market and an even stronger rise in international markets.

In the immediate term, the FAA believes that the US domestic market will see passenger numbers rise again by 2.4% this year, with double that growth on international routes. But the most bullish predictions are reserved for the regionals, with forecast growth this year of 7.4%, taking passenger numbers above 71 million.

The longer-range forecasts, for the decade through to 2010, are just as buoyant. They predict passenger growth to average 3.4% on domestic mainline services and to run at 5.1% on international routes.

FAA officials say their short-term forecasts have traditionally been accurate to within two percentage points, while the longer-term, 10-year, forecasts are accurate within 10 points. The forecast assumes that the economies in Asia and Japan will stabilise in 1999 or 2000 - something officials admit may be premature. But the overall economic situation, coupled with the many new or expanded airport projects going on around the world, should allow for continued growth, says the FAA.

One looming problem may be oil prices. While the FAA believes these may dip by a further 5% this year, it forecasts a sharp rise of 14% in 2000, followed by another similar rise in 2001, as the Asian economy recovers.

Elsewhere in the forecast, the FAA says that the US mainline fleet will grow by some 2,135 aircraft to reach 7,165 by 2010. The regional aircraft fleet is expected to grow at the same 3% annual growth rate to achieve 2,886. The study also predicts strong growth in the cargo sector, with traffic up by 5.3% in the US domestic market and 6.6% in the international market.

Source: Airline Business