American Shipper

Inland Empire air cargo airport dreams on standby

Inland Empire air cargo airport dreams on standby

The impending pullout by DHL's from the U.S. domestic shipping market has also brought the aspirations of developing a major air cargo at a former Air Force base on the eastern outskirts of Southern California plummeting back to reality.

   March Air Reserve Base, when downsized to a reserve base by the military more than 10 years ago, was re-envisioned as a potentially major player in the regional air cargo market — servicing as many as eight air cargo firms and handling up to 80 percent of Riverside County's airborne cargo.

   However, it would be more than seven years before the local government agency developers of the base reuse, the March Joint Powers Authority, were able to attract DHL as the base's first, and to date only, major air carrier.

   When DHL closes up shop at the base in January, base officials admit they will be starting from scratch. At least one industry expert believes DHL's departure is the base's swan song as an air cargo hub.

   The few successful all-cargo airports all have one thing that as of January March won't have — a major air cargo integrator — air cargo consultant Michael Webber told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

   'At the time (the base) made their play on DHL, the number of integrators was already down to DHL, FedEx and UPS. UPS already has its regional hub at Ontario, FedEx has its western regional hub at Oakland and a smaller hub ' at LAX,' Webber, who is based in Prairie Village, Kansas, told the paper.

   Officials at the MJPA said diversification of the base's possible uses, instead of looking at solely at the air cargo market, needs to be the agency's primary focus post-DHL.

   'I think we’ve learned from the past, and this one project at a time (strategy) doesn’t work,' Lori Stone, executive director of the MMJPA told the Press-Enterprise.

   'We need to plan to be an airport,' Stone said, adding the agency does not plan to hang its hat on 'one use or two uses.'

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes FedEx (No. 1) and UPS (No. 2).