2050 Aviation Forecast released

Demand more than doubles

PSRC has released a new forecast for unconstrained demand for commercial, air cargo and general aviation in 2050.

“Aviation plays a critical role in the region’s economy and quality of life.  Our airports support the largest aerospace manufacturing center in the world,” said Josh Brown, Executive Director of the PSRC.  “The numbers in this forecast may seem daunting, but that’s why it’s good to take a long look ahead.  This study will provide the region with the tools needed to make the right near term decisions to ensure the region is ready and continues to thrive.”  

The forecast was produced for the Regional Aviation Baseline Study, which will provide a clear picture of the aviation activities and needs in the central Puget Sound region and set the stage for future planning.

The new forecast shows:

  • Regional demand for enplanements (passenger boardings for departure) on commercial flights is expected to grow from 24 million in 2018 to between 49.3 million and 55.6 million by 2050. This reflects an increase of between 105% to 132%.
  • Regional demand for operations (all takeoffs and landings) is expected to grow from 438,000 in 2018 to between 810,000 and 914,000 by 2050. This reflects an increase of between 85% to 109%.
  • Demand for regional air cargo capacity is expected to grow from 552,000 metric tons in 2018 to 1,300,000 by 2050, an increase of 136%.
  • Regional demand for general aviation operations, such as aviation activities for business, flight instruction, medical, emergency, law enforcement, recreation, or tourism, is expected to grow from 1,351,000 in 2017 to 1,806,000 by 2050, an increase of 34%.

The Regional Aviation Baseline Study is examining the dynamics of the region’s growing aviation activity, the unique role of the regional aviation system in supporting this global center for aerospace manufacturing, the economic impact of the region’s airports, and community issues and concerns with airport activities.

Recent population, employment and income growth is driving regional aviation demand and this trend is expected to continue. The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is also a growing hub for connections to Asia. Globalization and e-commerce are international trends that are driving dramatic air cargo growth, which is also expected to continue.

Throughout 2019, the study will focus on airport and aviation analytics and future aviation issues.  The study is expected to be finalized in fall 2020 and provide a foundation for future aviation planning.

The regional airport system consists of 29 airports. One large international hub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, 11 small airports, two military airports, and 15 airports outside of the national plan of integrated airports.