One of California’s most successful cargo airports is set to benefit from major development and investment to further cement its position as one of Southern California’s primary freight centers.

The Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center will be built on 101 acres of vacant land at San Bernardino International Airport, with plans for a 658,000-square-foot distribution center and parking for up to 16 aircraft outside.

Last year, Mark Gibbs, director of aviation at the airport, said, "There’s tremendous opportunity here for air cargo and logistics companies to realize significant efficiencies and lower expansion costs." It seems this has now come true.

Developed by Hillwood Enterprises LP, it is hoped that the new center would see a 24-hour operation and create almost 4,000 jobs. As a result, the airport could see an additional 12 daily freighter flights, which would increase to 26 by 2024.

San Bernardino started life as Norton Air Base and emerged as a civilian airport in 1994 following the base’s closure. While it initially had hopes of attracting passenger flights, and the site still includes an immaculate, unused passenger terminal, it was the introduction of cargo facilities and flights which cemented its specialized role among the region’s airports.

Its success in developing its cargo business is owed largely to its location. Only 60 miles from Los Angeles, and linked to a multimodal transport corridor, operators have found it to be the ideal location in Southern California for the efficient transportation of goods.

With the new logistics center the airport should expect to raise millions in revenue from aircraft landing fees and ground rents. However, it is the benefit to the local economy which is the icing on the cake.

Airport Executive Director Mike Burrows said, "The Eastgate project is poised to be a major catalyst for economic and community development in our communities, taking us into the next chapter of our airport development."

The new logistics center would likely be occupied by a single tenant who would benefit from the combined distribution center and adjacent aircraft parking stands. FedEx Express and UPS already occupy their own smaller distribution centers at the airport to support their daily flights, meaning another operator is expected to occupy the new facility.

Amazon has already been linked with the Eastgate site, which would complement its existing fulfilment center at the airport. An announcement on the operator is expected once construction begins.

While the airport and local residents have all proved in favour of the new development, Hillside will need to wait for the final nod from the FAA, which decides what developments are permitted at airports around the country.

If approved, construction work could begin in June, with the center opening by the end of the year or early in 2020.

Commenting on just how the airport has grown, Gibbs added, "In 2016, cargo activity totaled just 36 flights. Since then, the number and size of all-cargo carriers has increased rapidly, ballooning to 633 all-cargo flights in 2018, with growth momentum in the cargo segment extending into 2019."