The Federal Aviation Administration predicts the number of U.S. air passengers will rise by 2.5 percent per year starting in 2011, increasing the need for its Next Generation Air Transportation System.

The forecast, released Tuesday, said annual U.S. air passengers will rise from 704 million last year to 1 billion by 2023. Takeoffs and landings will increase from 51 million this year to 70 million by 2030.

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“This forecast makes a very strong business case for NextGen,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. “Without NextGen, we won’t be able to handle the increased demand for service that this forecast anticipates.”

NextGen is upgrading the nation’s air traffic control from a ground-based radar system to a satellite-and-plane based GPS system.

In southern New Jersey, the NextGen Aviation Research and Technology Park under construction in Egg Harbor Township will create space for companies working on the system with the nearby William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City International Airport. When completed, the 55-acre park is expected to host 2,000 technology jobs.

This year, due to the recession, the FAA is forecasting a 0.5 percent increase in domestic air passengers, and a decrease of 2.7 percent in total airport operations. But as the effects of the recession fade, use of the air transport system will take off.

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