Monday, March 24, 2008
SBIA may soon be boarding
Air passenger service in San Bernardino could start by year’s end
By Robert Rogers and Matt Wrye
The Inland Valley (CA) Daily Bulletin
SAN BERNARDINO – It doesn’t take an aviation expert to see that San Bernardino International Airport is replete with potential. The commercial jet-ready runway. The cavernous hangars sheltering 727s, 737s and larger aircraft as technicians work on their bodies and engines. The towering terminal. Officials say at least some of that potential will be realized by the end of the year, when they expect the airport to have passenger service. Last week, a 767 jet took off and landed at the airport on a test flight after service work (Editor’s Note: See the article on Redliands Airspace below).
“If everything stays on track, we expect to see passenger service before the end of this year,” said Bill Ingraham, aviation director for SBIA. “By that we mean walk up, buy a ticket and take an airplane to (domestic) destinations.”
San Bernardino International Airport has for years been working to accommodate commercial passenger travel.
The airport completed a $34 million renovation to its 10,000-foot runway in 2005.
The current project is a $40 million-plus renovation to its 70,000-square-foot passenger terminal.
Ingraham said the terminal will be fully reconstructed by August, with technical and logistical kinks such as security, communications and other federally regulated matters taking another month to iron out.
“Mid-September is a pretty safe bet,” for air traffic readiness, Ingraham said, adding that major airlines have shown interest, but he can’t divulge which ones or how many due to ongoing negotiations.
“There’s specific interest from one or more carriers,” he said.
The major upgrades have consisted of interior and exterior renovations to the terminal. In addition, a two-story, 20,000-square-foot concourse with four passenger loading bridges has been erected on the east side of the terminal. Escalators and stairwells are already installed, and the concourse is about 60 percent complete, Ingraham said.
SBIA officials are working with federal Homeland Security personnel to meet regulations and will work later with the Federal Aviation Administration, Ingraham said.
Donald Rogers, interim executive director of the Inland Valley Development Agency and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, has also said commercial passenger flights this year are a likely scenario.
While who and when remain questions in terms of the airport’s future, its capacity is undisputed. The renovated runway is ready for prime time, Ingraham said.
“The runway can handle anything that flies,” Ingraham said.
A 10,000-foot runway is impressive, but the up-and-coming airport may compete heavily in the future with L.A./Ontario International Airport, which sports a 12,200-foot runway, and intermodal Southern California Logistics Airport outside of Victorville, which has a 15,050-foot runway.
Officials from the Ontario and San Bernardino airports say they will never compete with each other because the region’s growth will fuel enough demand.
“We feel there’s plenty of air traffic in the future to make up for demand,” said Maria Tesoro, spokeswoman for L.A./ONT.
If a high-stakes plan by regional policymakers wins the funding it needs to get started, Southern California Logistics Airport might be better situated to handle air cargo than San Bernardino’s airport.
A proposed 50-mile stretch of asphalt between Palmdale and Highway 395 – the High Desert Corridor – hinges on whether San Bernardino Associated Governments can garner $150 million in Proposition 1B money to kick-start the first phase of the project.