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Old May 10, 09, 2:51 am   #1
 
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Question How many people are in the air at a given time?

Whilst travelling from JFK to LHR a couple of days ago I was wondering...approximately how many people in the world were in the air at that point in time? Has anybody thought the same and more importantly has anybody got any idea? Danny
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Old May 10, 09, 5:11 am   #2
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I read once that at any point in the day, 24 hours a day, every minute there are something like 3,000 Boeing aircraft in the air, all the time.

I know that's not what you asked, but I found it interesting nonetheless.
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Old May 10, 09, 11:50 am   #3
 
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Whilst travelling from JFK to LHR a couple of days ago I was wondering...approximately how many people in the world were in the air at that point in time? Has anybody thought the same and more importantly has anybody got any idea? Danny
Don't know any good sites for worldwide air traffic, but here in the US at this moment (Sunday afternoon) Flightaware (www.flightaware.com) is tracking 4,892 flights. This does include business traffic, but it gives you an idea of the huge number in the air (at least in the US) at any one time. You can also break it down by carrier, aircraft type, and airport.
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Old May 10, 09, 5:38 pm   #4
 
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A quick Google shows about 9000 Boeing commercial aircraft in service and 5100 from Airbus. So 14,100 airplanes, and I am going to guess that 75% of them are in the air at any given time and that each holds an average of 150 people. So:

1,586,250 people in the air.

Just a guess, but I imagine it is not too far off... certainly the figure is at least a million.
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Old May 10, 09, 8:02 pm   #5
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I am going to guess that 75% of them are in the air at any given time
I think that number is high. The average hours in the air per plane per day is nowhere near 18. Even CO - which pushes their aircraft to the edge in terms of scheduling - doesn't get much above 16 hours on average from their planes. Between maintenance, turn time and general downtime I'd guess that the average across the world is closer to 12-14 hours. That is still a lot of planes in the air and a lot of people, but I think that the 75% number (18 hours) is high.

You also have to consider load factors (~75-80%) and the glut of CRJs and ERJs in the world, among other manufacturers. There are a few Yak-42s still flying every day, though they represent a small number of total passengers.
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Old May 10, 09, 8:36 pm   #6
 
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Back in the heyday of science fiction this might have made a good plot line. Death ray hits the earth and only the people in the air survive.
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Old May 10, 09, 10:22 pm   #7
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A quick Google shows about 9000 Boeing commercial aircraft in service and 5100 from Airbus. So 14,100 airplanes, and I am going to guess that 75% of them are in the air at any given time and that each holds an average of 150 people.
75% is way too high. Airlines try to have longhaul a/c utilised for passenger service more than 12 hours a day on average (some airlines don't even manage that due to curfews, timezones, a/c mothballed or parked up for many hours at hub due to downturn). Shorthaul a/c generally have even lower utilisation - there are only so many short overnight flights that can be done in most parts of the world.

Not all a/c are boeing/airbus. Plenty of regional jets and prop a/c.
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Old May 11, 09, 9:02 am   #8
 
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If we look at the 2008 statistics for the 30 busiest airports, we already arrive at a value of 1.4 billion passengers in one year.

Divide this by 365 and we're still looking at nearly 4 million passengers a day.

Granted, most of these won't be in the air "at the same time" since most flights are just 1-3 hours long, but the number is still pretty high for sure.
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Old May 11, 09, 2:10 pm   #9
 
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Good question. TSA screens right at 2 million pax per day, and most are domestic, not international. Probably more weekdays, less weekends.

Google brings up an opposite of FT blog ( please don't tell them about a MR, flying to go nowhere ) which mentions 300,000 over the US in 2005, which seems about right for a daytime hour if 2 million total fly. I'll guess US is half or more of world total, making 400,000 to 500,000 max in the air on a given day's peak hour, worldwide.
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