Air Cargo in Holding Pattern At Southern California Logistics Airport

Sunday, July 4, 2004
Air Cargo in Holding Pattern At Southern California Logistics Airport
The Barstow (CA) Desert Dispatch

VICTORVILLE — The projections are rosy, but the runways are quiet.

Southern California Logistics Airport is part of an Inland Empire consortium of airports that expects Southern California air cargo tonnage to rise from about 2.7 million tons a year to 8.4 million tons by 2030. The Inland Empire airports expect their cargo will come as Ontario International Airport reaches its peak. Los Angeles International Airport, the third-busiest cargo airport in the United States and sixth-busiest in the world, is approaching capacity, and Ontario is benefiting from the crunch, rising to 14th nationally in cargo.

Projections for SCLA by the Southern California Association of Governments are for more than a million tons of commercial cargo annually by 2030, but SCLA Airport Director Peter Soderquist said Wednesday that current figures are slightly below that.

“There is none,” Soderquist said. “We handle quite a bit of military cargo, but there has been no commercial cargo to speak of recently.”

SCLA had three Swissair cargo flights a week a couple of years ago, but the financially troubled airline had to cut the operation. SCLA’s Inland Empire competition, San Bernardino International Airport and March Inland Port Airport, are experiencing a similar lack of cargo business.

“There’s nothing,” said Philip Rizzo, executive director of the March Joint Powers Authority and of March Inland Port Airport. “All three airports are in the same boat.”

Cargo business had gotten so quiet that Sean Fredsti, manager of Valley Air Express and a marketing and business development manager for SCLA, said last week that he thought senior management had cut back on marketing of the airport to focus on an impending rail spur to be built at SCLA.

“That’s bull,” Soderquist said. “We are marketing the airport the same as always, talking with the air cargo community and going to trade shows.”

The biggest trade show is the International Air Cargo Association convention held this year in Madrid, Spain, which Rizzo expected all three airports to attend.

Eventual cargo business is “inevitable,” according to Soderquist, and projections agree with him.

Boeing Aircraft has forecast that “world airborne cargo will grow at 6.4 percent per year during the next 20 years.” The manufacturer expects the freighter fleet to increase over the next 20 years, from 1,775 to 3,078 airplanes.

Los Angeles freight forwarders, key players in air cargo who package the shipment of goods for others, recently visited the three airports, and Soderquist said that for the first time in more than two years, phones are beginning to ring again with calls from the cargo community.

“We just need one freight forwarder to come out to the Inland Empire and be a pioneer,” Rizzo said.

San Bernardino International’s master developer, the Hillwood company, is taking the biggest risk in the Inland Empire to attract new cargo shipments. Hillwood is paying $300,000 a year in rent to San Bernardino for land on which it will build a 240,000-square-foot logistics center, betting that it can attract up to 10 cargo flights a day.

Dubbed Alliance California, Hillwood’s venture has been modeled on AllianceTexas, a 15,000-acre airport north of Fort Worth, Texas, where Hillwood convinced FedEx to locate a cargo hub.

The two busiest U.S. cargo airports, after all, are Memphis and Anchorage, not O’Hare and Hartsfield. Memphis has the main FedEx hub, and Anchorage — specializing in international cargo — has Atlas Air, Federal Express, Northwest Cargo, United Parcel Service and the United States Postal Service.