San Bernardino Gets in Position

Airport readies itself to handle corporate aviation, begin air carrier service

SAN BERNARDINO, CA — Riding around on a tour of the former Norton Air Force Base airfield, aviation director Bill Ingraham, A.A.E., points to the heavy iron mod/paint/maintenance facilities; the fixed base operation and its Quonset hut environment; and the new 150,000-gallon fuel farm. Off in the distance, a biplane is doing touch and gos. Then comes the tour highlight: a $38 million corporate/commercial terminal and hangar complex that will open in late 2008 and be operated by Million Air Interlink under a management contract. When completed, the development brings to San Bernardino International Airport the ability to market to corporates, while also pursuing its first commercial airline service.

Explains Million Air Interlink president Roger Woolsey, “San Bernardino came about when the airport authority and the Inland Valley Development Agency [IVDA] were looking to develop that area of Southern California. Ontario [International] falls under LA fees, which are very high. San Bernardino offers the opportunity to develop the general aviation side of it. All in all, we’ve gotten a lot of interest in using that facility. There’s a shortage of corporate hangar space in the region.

“We are going to build a world-class facility. We’re going after the large aircraft market. There are several corporate 747s that don’t quite fit at our LA region FBOs. They need a home.

“Servicing the commercial side is also our goal. We’re still in negotiations on that.”

Since the closure of Norton in 1994, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA) and the IVDA have operated in concert to develop the former Air Force properties. The airfield is operated and being developed by SBIAA; property outside the fence of the airport is the responsibility of the IVDA to develop. The aim all along has been to create jobs — when Norton closed, 10,000 jobs went as well.

In 2002, IVDA teamed up with Hillwood/San Bernardino LLC., in a joint development agreement. Based inTexas, Hillwood is a Ross Perot company and the master developer of the Alliance Airport and neighboring properties north of Ft. Worth. The success in commercial development off-airport has led to development of the airport — IVDA is SBIAA’s top source of funding.

Explains Ingraham, “The IVDA creates an initial source of revenue when its property is sold and developed; and then it creates a tax increment, a portion of which comes back to the agency. That can come over here in the form of a grant or a loan.

“SBIAA has the ability to borrow or take grants from entities, including IVDA. Now, IVDA should ultimately get paid back, when things can pay for themselves.

“It’s a very advantageous position for the airport authority here to have a source for funding to make things like this happen.”

New terminal complex
Central to the business aviation and commercial airline developments is the terminal/hangar complex, which Ingraham says totals an investment of some $38 million by the airport and the private sector. Airfield infrastructure is in place, with a rehabilitated 10,000-foot runway and a new control tower which Ingraham is working to get into the Contract Tower Program.

Scot Spencer of SBD Aircraft Services is the key private investor. His company is the master lessor of the large aircraft maintenance complex, which houses various subtenants, and is the primary tenant at San Bernardino today. He is also the investor behind the FBO/terminal complex, which will be able to accommodate up to ten airline gates.

When opened, the facility will be operated and staffed by Houston-based Million Air Interlink via a management agreement similar to one the company has at Albany (NY) International Airport, where it operates the FBO for the airport.

Comments Woolsey of Million Air, “We’re also going to be doing the commercial service and completely managing the project, similar to the Albany project. We provide the staffing; they give us complete reins on how to run that company.”

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