Commercial Passenger Flights To Begin Out of San Bernardino International Airport Next Week

Some 28 years after Norton Air Force Base was shuttered and roughly 27 years after they were first promised by local officials, the first commercial passenger flights out of San Bernardino National Airport are set to take off next week.
On August 4 Breeze Airways will initiate daily nonstop flights to San Francisco followed by a flight on the same plane to Provo, Utah.
According to Breeze Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs Eric Fletcher, one-way tickets to San Francisco start at $49.
In the aftermath of the U.S. Department of Defense’s announcement that Norton was to be closed, the County of San Bernardino and the cities of San Bernardino, Highland, Redlands, Colton, Loma Linda and Grand Terrace formed two separate joint powers authorities – the San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA) and the Inland Valley Development Authority (IVDA). SBIAA was dedicated to the civilian use conversion of the base itself. IVDA was intended to oversee the development/redevelopment of the property around the airport that was to be created from the Air Force Base, including some of the property that would, upon the departure of the military, not be used as a part of the aerodrome. Ultimately Redlands and Grand Terrace discontinued their participation in both SBIAA and IVDA. Highland discontinued its participation in IVDA but remains a participant in SBIAA.
Empty promises and some extremely expensive failures to perform dogged the San Bernardino International Airport Authority.
Under executive directors Don Rogers, T. Milford Harrison and Scot Spencer, San Bernardino Airport failed to attract commercial airlines following intensive efforts and the expenditure of a substantial amount of taxpayer money to accomplish that goal. Spencer had previously been indicted for bankruptcy fraud in connection with the failed attempt to revive Braniff Airlines. Despite that, and without any competitive bidding, Spencer was chosen by the airport authority to serve as contract developer of the airport in 2007. Ultimately, Spencer’s relationship with Harrison, who had been one of his predecessors as the airport authority’s executive director, would raise eyebrows all around. Spencer and Harrison jointly formed at least three aviation companies, to which they intended to extend exclusive contracts at the airport through the authority.
Spencer was given a contract to oversee what was supposed to be a $38 million renovation of the airport’s passenger terminal and a $7 million development of its concourse. Spencer undertook that assignment amid confident predictions that upon completion of those projects, the airport would attract at least one and perhaps as many as a half dozen commercial passenger carriers. In carrying out that project, Spencer used two corporations he owned, Norton Development Company, LLC and SBD Properties, LLC. The cost of the passenger terminal and the concourse escalated to $142 million.
The $142 effort created a surrealistic spectacle which consisted of a resplendent but completely empty passenger terminal, as the airport and that facility hosted no commercial airlines, although corporate jets and other private pilots did for a short period land at the Million Air corporate aviation facility, for which Spencer was the franchisee, beginning in 2010.
With the announcement that Breeze would begin operations at San Bernardino International, using Embraer E195 aircraft featuring a two-by-two seating arrangement that can accommodate 118 passengers, Congressman Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) obtained a $7.1 million Federal Aviation Administration grant to “increase airport productivity as it expands their commercial flights.” The grant is to be applied toward rehabilitating the runway and reconstructing taxiways.
“I thank and applaud Breeze Airways CEO David Neeleman and his management team for their investments and confidence in San Bernardino International Airport and for bringing their low-cost service to our fast-growing region,” said San Bernardino International Airport Director of Aviation Mark Gibbs. “The airport team is making final preparations to our terminal and roadway system that will make travel through the airport easy, convenient, and, well, a breeze.”

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