Don't Look for New SBIA Runway to Produce Instant Results

Dec. 4--People often ask, why isn't anybody using San Bernardino International Airport?

(The truth is, the airport is being used, but not very much.)

And the reason is that up until a few weeks ago, its 10,000-foot runway was in the process of being rebuilt.

At times during that process, only part of the runway was available for an airplane.

Before that, the runway was a mess -- as in the concrete was crumbling.

So $36,607,000 later, it's like brand new.

Count on airport officials to work diligently to exploit the newly completed runway in their marketing efforts.

But the movement of airport business is like falling dominoes. As Los Angeles International fills up, then more business will come to Ontario International and as Ontario International reaches capacity, then business should move to SBIA, said Bill Ingraham, San Bernardino County director of airports.

Ingraham said Friday that he believes SBIA will develop a strong mix of business -- cargo, passengers, corporate and general aviation. Eventually.

Yes, passengers will be part of the mix, although it might be 10 years -- or longer -- until that develops, he said.

Scot Spencer, manager of SBD Aircraft Services, which is in the process of finalizing a lease on a large amount of SBIA hangar space, said he has heard many executives in the airline industry say passenger traffic will become significant at SBIA -- one day.

Clearly, SBIA is not the only game in the region.

Long-distance cargo carriers like to see long runways.

SBIA's 10,000-foot-runway sounds long, but in reality, it's shorter than the competition.

For example, Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville has a 15,050-foot-runway. March Air Reserve Base near Riverside has a 13,300-foot-runway.

Even on hot days, these are probably longer than what is needed for a fully loaded cargo plane to fly nonstop to China.

(Hot air detracts from lift. So it takes more runway time to get a plane airborne on a hot day.)

If a cargo carrier can wait until dark, the 10,000 feet at SBIA should serve them just fine.

Also, some China-bound flights stop over in Alaska. So they wouldn't need a full load of fuel when leaving Southern California.

Airport officials have plans to eventually increase the runway length to 11,500 feet.

Meanwhile, SBIA does have bragging rights. While its runway isn't especially long, it is very wide. The 200-foot-wide runway, with shoulder 40 feet wide on each side, elevates SBIA to a Group 6 airport.

In California, this title is only shared with airports in San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Francisco.

Being wide is important to accommodate the world's largest aircraft, the new Airbus A380.

Penny Chua, marketing director for SBIA, is attempting to woo five Asian carriers to take a look at what SBIA has to offer.

The newly rebuilt runway at San Bernardino International Airport gives the airport its ticket to recruit air-cargo operators, charter and commuter airlines and other businesses.

If there's grumbling out there about spending more than $36 million on "that runway," there shouldn't be.

The Federal Aviation Administration paid $32,818,500 for the project. The state of California paid $1,738,600. And the airport authority paid $2,050,000, said Martin Romeo, the airport's chief financial officer.

The money paid by the SBIA didn't come from the pockets of local taxpayers. Rather, it was from the rent paid by tenants at SBIA.