Thursday, May 24, 2007
Airport moving toward takeoff
Officials OK plan to update terminal
By Jim Steinberg
The San Bernardino County (CA) Sun
First the crumbling, 10,000-foot runway was rebuilt. Now it’s time to modernize the terminal building. San Bernardino International Airport officials on Wednesday set in motion a $38million project to bring the 66,000-square-foot terminal building up to today’s standards. San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, who is president of the airport board, called the terminal a “linchpin” project that would allow the facility to attract the passenger service it has long sought. “It is the critical element that is missing,” Morris said in an interview.
The structure, originally built in 1943, was remodeled in the late 1990s, but after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, new security issues and procedures rendered the building obsolete.
The San Bernardino International Airport board on Wednesday, during a regularly scheduled meeting at Loma Linda City Hall, approved a plan to accomplish that needed makeover – one officials hope can be finished by summer 2008.
“You want to have a project like this completed for the busy summer season,” said Mike Burrows, the airport’s assistant director.
Said Don Rogers, the airport’s interim executive director: “We are having discussions with airlines, and it is clear the terminal must be brought up to current standards for major scheduled airlines to come here.”
The airport terminal project follows the $31million airport runway reconstruction project completed in late 2005.
The runway can now accommodate the largest cargo and passenger aircraft in the world, including the new Airbus A380, which can carry 520 passengers.
But getting these planes to the airport has been elusive.
“We want to get the terminal ready and see what we can do,” said Loma Linda Mayor Robert Christman, who is vice president of the airport board and a pilot.
“Getting a commercial airline in here is a dream that I have had for years, but it has not happened,” he said.
Along the path to accomplish that objective, the airport board has rebuilt the runway and is now tackling the terminal.
“One step at a time,” Christman said in an interview before Wednesday’s board meeting.
Developing passenger airline service has long been one of the four-pronged goals of the airport board and staff, along with air cargo, general aviation and aviation-related business such as aircraft maintenance, said Penny Chua, SBIA director of economic development and marketing.
The passenger side of the business received encouragement during a September meeting between Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Morris.
The two mayors talked about the importance of SBIA’s role as the Los Angeles and Ontario airports reach capacity.
The SBIA airport terminal project will bring the facility into compliance with post 9-11 Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration requirements, said Burrows.
This will be accomplished, in part, by a substantial redesign of the terminal to accommodate modern screening and baggage handling equipment, which will be purchased as part of the project.
A major component of the project of interest to airline operators is the addition of a two-story 17,000-square-foot concourse structure to the rear of the terminal, which will allow convenient loading and unloading of passengers through air-conditioned walkways and jet bridges.
The project will be designed so that the terminal can easily be expanded, Christman said.
To move the renovation forward at a rapid pace, the airport will lease the terminal to a developer, Norton Development Co., which will secure a loan for the project that will be backed by the Inland Valley Development Agency, the sister agency to the airport board in the redevelopment of the former Norton Air Force Base.