A Southwest jet taxis for take off at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank in 2009.

A Southwest jet taxis for take off at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank in 2009. (Times Community News / May 22, 2012)

The operations at Bob Hope Airport are expected to improve over the next 20 years, but not to pre-recession levels, according to a forecast released this week.

Bob Hope Airport has been bleeding passengers since the economic recession began in 2007, with the number of people with board passes dropping by about 3% last year, according to the report by Coffman Associates.

“As we’re looking now, we’re seeing that trend start to reverse itself,” he said.

But even as the economy starts to recover, the airport is only expected to see a 2.6% improvement in the number of passengers over the next 20 years, Fitz said.

Bottom line: things are going to say “relatively flat” at Bob Hope Airport, he said. And according to the report’s findings, there’s little chance that the airport will see passenger use figures like those seen at its peak in 2006 — even two decades from now.

“Long range, we’re not looking at a significant amount of growth, but there will be some growth,” Fitz said.

The forecast — which took account socio-economics, market indicators, airport history and other factors — examined five sectors: commercial flights, small commercial aircraft, air cargo, general aviation and military operations.

Commercial traffic is only expected to see a 1.8% increase as airlines are start to fly larger planes closer to capacity.

“That middle seat that used to be open next to you is no longer open,” Fitz said.

Air cargo and general aviation, which includes privately-operated aircraft, have already started trending upward, he added.

Air cargo traffic alone is expected to increase by 1.9% annually, he said.

Military operations are “kind of hit or miss” with less than one operation at the airport per day, Fitz added. Those operations are expected to remain relatively flat, according to the report.

The forecast will be used to update maps that are part of a program to limit noise caused by aircraft, and must still be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.