California's Inland Airports Voice Ambitions

Dec. 31 -- Inland air travel is bound to be bigger and broader in the distant future after announcements this year from Palm Springs International Airport, LA/Ontario International Airport and San Bernardino International Airport.

Palm Springs airport plans to build an international terminal for commercial jets.

Ontario International Airport, now LA/Ontario International Airport, predicted its annual passenger count could rise from 7.2 million to 30 million in 25 years.

San Bernardino airport, formerly Norton Air Force Base, earned federal funding for expanding its fuel tanks, taking one step toward attracting more jets.

Palm Springs' international tower likely won't spring up for the next few years. Bryan Kidd, deputy director of aviation, said a 2003 master plan report for the airport will need to be updated, which the airport is seeking to fund. There's no timeline for construction.

"Rather than build it and they will come, we'll try to attract (airline) interest," Kidd said.

But the airport's new regional terminal should be finished by November 2007. It will effectively end the long lines of regional planes that wait outside Gate 1, doubling the airplane capacity of the existing airport.

A large part of 2007 will be spent pitching incentives to airlines to either expand their services or start using the airport.

"We're always looking for East Coast service," he said. "Is it really realistic at this point? Well, the answer is that it's not ... it doesn't mean we will stop trying. Carriers are reluctant to fly over their hubs to get here."

Ontario airport officials expect a new airline to come on board by the spring, said spokeswoman Maria Tesaro-Fermin.

San Bernardino airport officials say they will use a $4.5 million Federal Aviation Administration grant to build three 50,000-gallon fuel tanks by March 2008.

"One of the main detriments of this airport right now is the carriers, or proposed carriers, find themselves concerned about the fuel capacity at the airport," Airport Operations Manager Eric Ray said.

Copyright (c) 2006, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

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