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18 Airports and the Newest Generation of General Aviation Aircraft prepared specifically for VLJs. These forecasts may be of interest to airport operators, at least to provide an initial estimate of the scale of operations that may be expected from new generation aircraft. The forecasts identified two potential market segments for new generation aircraft: traditional GA use and commercial air taxi use. Traditional GA use includes personal, business, corporate, and other non-air taxi uses. There is also some indication that VLJs may be a viable option in the frac- tional ownership market, given that some smaller fractional operators have indicated plans to include VLJs as an option in their fractional ownership programs. The commercial air taxi seg- ment includes traditional charter use and on-demand air taxi and per-seat on-demand services. The two segments were analyzed separately with different techniques; the traditional GA model forecasted fleet sales directly, while the air taxi model was estimated using passenger trips as the basis for the analysis which was then translated into fleet requirements using load factor and equipment utilization factors. For the traditional GA analysis, the forecasting assumed that GA use of new generation aircraft would come primarily from the replacement of existing aircraft (including high-end pistons, turboprops, and light jets) already in the fleet. Ultimately, a significant VLJ fleet may be used for traditional GA purposes, and growth in overall airport operations due to these new aircraft is not expected to vary much from historical averages observed over the past several years. On the other hand, if the commercial air taxi market develops into a significant segment, that may have a much greater effect on GA airport operations given that much of the activ- ity may represent new small aircraft activity (potentially displacing commercial air service and automobile trips). Consequently, an offshoot of the fleet projections for the air taxi mar- ket is a set of flight activity (operations) estimates broken out at the individual airport level. Candidate airports for the air taxi forecast were limited to public use airports in the lower 48 states with at least one 3,000-foot lighted runway and jet fuel available. Airports designated as Medium or Large hubs by the FAA were excluded based on observed and intended usage patterns of current and prospective air taxi operators. This yielded 1,842 candidate airports for potential air taxi services. The airport-specific activity projections from the air taxi forecast are provided as Appendix A to the guidebook. Operators of airports included in the analysis are encouraged to access and review the forecasts. A complete description of the forecast process and results is contained in a separate forecast document prepared in 2008. Relying on the same basic approach discussed above to assess poten- tial demand, the air taxi forecast relied on detailed estimates of catchment areas and demographic data across the entire United States. The baseline year for the forecast was 2007, resulting in fleet forecasts for the years 2012 and 2017. 3.3.1 Forecast Results 10 Years Out The forecast for the traditional GA segment projects that approximately 1,650 VLJs may be sold for use in the United States by 2012; by 2017, this total is projected to increase to around 3,500. The more speculative air taxi forecast projects 751 VLJs by 2012 and an increase in excess of 400 new low-cost piston aircraft that may be used for air taxi services. By 2017, the cumulative air taxi VLJ fleet may total more than 1,300, with about half that number added to the air taxi piston fleet. Figure 3-1 summarizes the cumulative fleet additions projected by 2017. The projected VLJ cumulative total of about 4,800 aircraft over 10 years is somewhat lower than most other forecasts recently published, but this is not surprising given the recent downturn in the economy and some negative developments affecting participants in the industry during 2008. It is
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Projecting Potential Future Activity from New Generation Aircraft 19 Projected 10-Year US Fleet Additions of Small GA Aircraft from 2007 30,000 25,000 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 0 Air Ta x i Use Othe r GA Uses VLJs 1, 305 3, 547 Other (Pistons, Props, Light 663 21, 632 Jets) Figure 3-1. ACRP fleet forecast additions. still anticipated, however, that the VLJ market will continue to grow, albeit somewhat more slowly than the optimistic projections forecasted by others. The actual air taxi fleet projection levels depend heavily on basic assumptions, the most prominent of which are as follows: · Definitions of the relevant universe for the automobile and commercial air travel markets; · "Full price of travel" estimates of the various modes, which depend on (among other things) uncertain estimates of the unit costs of providing traditional charter services, wait and/or delay times associated with commercial air travel, and road congestion associated with automobile travel · Actual availability of new per-seat on-demand VLJ services and/or low-cost piston services; and · Perceived similarities or differences between new services and traditional charter services. Using different assumptions for any of these factors could affect the estimated results significantly. The overall level of activity at small airports is not likely to be affected much by VLJs pur- chased for traditional GA use because the main effect is anticipated to be displacement of sales of other small GA aircraft. On the other hand, the analysis indicates that sales of VLJs (and low-cost piston aircraft) for air taxi use are likely to displace automobile and commercial air traffic, potentially leading to substantial increases in activity at certain airports that can han- dle large numbers of aircraft being used to provide new air taxi services. Overall, the projected increase in operations by 2017 at candidate airports relative to 2007 is modest, on the order of 6%, as shown in Table 3-1. The baseline air taxi trip estimates are all tied to specific location and airports, so the total num- ber of associated air taxi operations can be estimated on an airport-specific basis. These estimates are contained in Appendix A, but they should be viewed cautiously. The projections are best interpreted as "market potential" targets, if and when low-cost air taxi services become available.