Airport Manager Scott Gibbs walks toward a window overlooking the tarmac of the San Bernardino International Airport. (Gabriel Luis Acosta/Staff Photographer)

No tenant: Commercial carriers have yet to sign on to former military base
Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/29/2013 06:48:36 PM PDT

Photo Gallery: SBIA

SAN BERNARDINO — Nearly two decades after Norton Air Force Base closed, the airport that replaced it has no passenger carrier.

San Bernardino International Airport has virtually everything that would be required for an airline to fly in and out. Signs posted above the roads leading toward the southeast San Bernardino airport point drivers to a terminal that, for all intents and purposes, is ready for business. Nonetheless, airport leaders are not quite sure when a passenger carrier will be ready to establish a presence in San Bernardino, and those in charge of running the place are awaiting a consultants’ report that may provide a new perspective on SBIA’s commercial viability.

Mayor Pat Morris, who is also president of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority’s governing board, said the report from consulting firm Mead & Hunt will be the first strategic step airport officials are taking to attract airline service since the essential completion of SBIA’s infrastructure.

“It will tell us what the potential opportunities are in terms of passenger loads, connection services, and in some ways, put us in a position to talk to airlines about plans to and from our facility,” Morris said.

The report could be completed by June.

“There’s a great chance for passenger service. The question is how soon.” Morris said.

“If we profile ourselves as a low-cost alternative to more extensive airports in regards to our parking fees, landing fees, we have an excellent shot,” he added.

In past years, airport officials had been much more optimistic on the subject of when passenger flights may take off from SBIA, saying an airline may be part of San Bernardino’s business community as early as 2008. As the effects of the Great Recession and other problems, such as the controversies surrounding former SBIA figure Scot Spencer became more pronounced, Morris and others became much more reluctant to be quoted about when an airline deal may be made.

Morris acknowledged Friday that he lost a bet that the airport would have passenger service before an In-N-Out restaurant would open in Highland. Highland residents finally got the chance to order a Double-Double in their city last spring.

A synopsis of plans that airport leaders presented to the Federal Aviation Administration this month indicated that officials may be in a position to market the airport to potential customers about one year from now. Plans also call for an analysis to begin next spring to determine SBIA’s attractiveness as a cargo airport.

Morris’ optimism is not universally held view. Former L.A./Ontario International Airport director Michael DiGirolamo has voiced considerable skepticism about the likelihood that SBIA or a similarly situated airport may be able to attract an airline in the near future.

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