1 Billion U.S. Air Travelers by 2010

What will you do when the major commercial airports (among the 5,177 airports in the United States) demand that dozens or hundreds of flights per day are diverted to smaller general aviation airports? Imagine the traffic acceleration, noise and pollution you’ll experience in your community or one near you.

Those among us who don’t think beyond this coming weekend pooh-pooh the idea that a sudden shift will occur driving corporate jets and smaller planes away from international/major airports and toward these smaller ones. To that I say, “Breathe deeply, my friend, and enjoy that fragrance of jet fuel” because it’s going to happen. It may not be sudden and will likely play out over several years but there isn’t a choice and here’s one example: 55 planes an hour trying to depart New York’s LaGuardia airport when only 45 slots are available (and some slots have smaller planes or corporate jets in line) and this can’t continue. Especially when that number balloons to 65, 75 or 100 an hour.

This article says it all about our air traffic gridlock and the composition of the aircraft exacerbating the problem: “At La Guardia, half of all flights now involve smaller planes: regional jets and turboprops. It’s the same at Chicago’s O’Hare, which is spending billions to expand runways. At New Jersey’s Newark Liberty and New York’s John F. Kennedy, 40 percent of traffic involves smaller planes, according to Eclat Consulting in Reston, Va. Aircraft numbers tell the tale: U.S. airlines grounded a net 385 large planes from 2000 through 2006 – but they added 1,029 regional jets – says data firm Airline Monitor.”

Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend of mine and waiting for him to be seated. As I sat at the table waiting, the flat panel TV on the wall showed this CNN story about air travel/traffic and the FAA’s outgoing head who was going to be taking action before she left her post and head back to the private sector. You can read her position at that article above, but the point on the TV segment was that passenger traffic would increase to 1 billion (yep…billion) passengers by 2010 domestically up from 663 million as of June 2007 (stats are run June-to-June).

Let’s recap the problem: too many planes trying to use the airport infrastructure; an enormous projected increase in the number of people flying domestically in just over two years; thousands of smaller airports not at capacity that could take the

It’s pretty common knowledge that the airline industry is already at a breaking point requiring — as the CNN article states — “…$15 billion for commercial airlines to equip their planes with new equipment and an additional $15 billion to $22 billion for the FAA to adopt (new) satellite technology…” which isn’t likely to happen. Especially since we’re expending a billions per month in Iraq and can’t even keep our bridges from falling down. This increase in traffic is only going to GUARANTEE that more traffic is shunted off to smaller airports in the United States.

I’ve written before about air taxi services and microjets…and how these alone will increase takeoffs and landings across smaller airports in the US. Living less than a mile from one (Flying Cloud in Eden Prairie, MN) means that I have heightened awareness of what will undoubtedly occur as the load on our current air traffic infrastructure causes a collapse (and hopefully not a catastrophic one like the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis) and significant numbers of aircraft of all shapes and sizes takeoff and land a stone’s throw from my house.

Perhaps working on a strategy to ensure this inevitable outcome has positive implications for your community would be a prudent course of action. For three decades I’ve traveled to Chicago’s Midway airport as well as use it extensively when I lived there in the late 1980’s. I saw firsthand what an expansion did to a neighborhood and can only imagine what it must be like to live anywhere near there as flights land and takeoff within a couple of blocks of hundreds of homes.

If you don’t want significant expansion airport and air traffic near where you live (and ground traffic to service the airport and for passengers to get to it), I suggest you get to work on that strategy now.

For more background, read the FAA’s just published, “Capacity Needs in the National Airspace System, 2007-2025” (PDF) which discusses 14 airports and eight metropolitan areas nationwide which will require new capacity to accommodate the anticipated growth in air traffic during the next 18 years. CENews in this article says about the report, “(B)y 2025, 15 metropolitan areas won’t have the ability to handle demand for flights unless they move forward with planned improvements. And in places such as the San Francisco Bay area, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, where existing airports are hemmed in by urban development, the report concludes these metropolitan areas will have to find better ways to use existing, smaller, or underused air fields.

Capacity investments in existing airfields or investment that would economically stimulate other cities (like mine)? I predict that it will be easier to push aircraft to the Flying Cloud airports of the world vs. the billions needed to expand major commercial airports.

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  1. PXLated on September 14, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    I started flying out of Flying Cloud back in 1967. Over the years I would look down as developers filled the wide open fields with houses all around and wonder if they were crazy. This is an airport, it’s going to be noisy. The last time I looked down it was crazy, the airport was pretty much surrounded by housing (where possible) and sure enough, the residents were bitching. My question then was, “what were they thinking?”, “what did they expect?”
    Now I haven’t flown for a number of years so haven’t kept up on the latest with Flying Cloud and the Eden Prarrie activists, but even way back in the late 80s the plan was to move corporate planes off Int’l. This isn’t something new and probably would have already happened back then if but for a couple reasons…
    1) Politics. Corporate heads have clout and didn’t want the extra commute time even though downtown St. Paul (improved for corporate jets) is really only five minutes further away from downtown Mpls.
    2) Keeping a corporate jet at Int’l was way, way cheaper than at other airports (probably still is). Int’l is it’s own city/entity and the taxes (property/etc) were dirt cheap. It would cost a corporate flight department a ton more to relocate.
    I know people that lost a bunch of money building corporate infrastructure at outlying airports when the Metropolitan Airports Commission caved to the corporate interests and didn’t force the corporate jets off Int’l as planned way back when. It has to happen, there is not alternative other than a new airline only airport and we know that isn’t going to happen.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.