March JPA Could Approve Airport Terminal by April

A general aviation terminal with a military look at the former March Air Force Base near Riverside could be approved in the next few months and built by late next year, according to Lori Stone, executive director of the March Joint Powers Authority.

Besides the airport at March and a $20 million Million Air terminal that opened at San Bernardino International Airport in May, there are 11 other Inland airports where smaller general aviation planes, chartered flights and corporate jets can land, including at Ontario International Airport alongside larger passenger planes.

The commission, made up of representatives from Riverside County, Moreno Valley, Perris and Riverside, first approved allowing general aviation at the airport in a 5-3 vote in mid-2008. In order to receive Federal Aviation Administration funding, an airport has to be open to general aviation flights.

Total cost to build the terminal is expected to be $1.6 million with the FAA’s Military Airport Program likely funding 95 percent of the costs and the JPA’s redevelopment agency or airport revenues covering the remainder.

The JPA expects to hold a public hearing on the terminal development in April or May and, if approved, construction could start in September or October and be finished in a year, Stone said.

“We had always intended to have corporate aircraft here,” Stone said, adding that chartered jets could serve businesses across the freeway at the Meridian business park built on former base land as well as the approved March LifeCare medical campus. “We think there’s a draw,” she said.

A March JPA consultant had earlier estimated that about 11,825 general aviation arrivals and departures could land at the former base this year, about 1.6 percent of the entire general aviation activity in the region, including flight training. By 2025, its market share may rise to 2 percent, according to the forecast.

The terminal could eventually be branded as a Million Air facility, which caters to corporate customers, based on the experience of the fixed-base operator at March, Freeman Holdings of Riverside LLC.

Freeman, which signed a lease to operate March’s airport fuel farm, would also operate the general aviation terminal if it’s approved and built according to the lease, Stone said. The principals of Freeman Holdings own and operate several Million Air general aviation terminals, including franchises in Victorville at the former George Air Force Base and locations in Topeka, Kan.; Alexandria, La.; Lake Charles, La.; Moses Lake, Wash.; Rome, N.Y.; and Yuma, Ariz. Most appear to operate at airports that serve both the military and civilian pilots, as would be the case at the former March Air Force Base where the airport and runway would be shared with the Air Force Reserves.

Michael Hotaling of C&S Engineering Professional Services said his company designed the terminal to resemble the traditional rounded military hangars and buildings at the base already. The firm has a contract for about $319,000 to design March’s airport facilities and may be paid an additional $146,000 if an amendment is approved at Wednesday’s Joint Powers Commission meeting.

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