VICTORVILLE — Parked airplanes dotted a wide expanse of concrete, nestled in hangars and lined up in rows in areas often mistaken for boneyards. During a recent tour of Southern California Logistics Airport, the massive logistics and industrial park seemed rather quiet while certain corners faded into the abandoned George Air Force Base housing not far away.
But the airport built on part of the former military installation has been anything but silent. Companies including Boeing, Pacific Aerospace Resource and Technologies and Leading Edge, which lease hangars there, have ramped up work thanks in part to a boom in fuel-efficient engine testing, according to Victorville Assistant City Manager Keith Metzler, who is in charge of operations at the facility.
While SCLA is bustling with aircraft testing, maintenance, modifications, painting and disassembly, it also boasts among its tenants the likes of Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Newell Rubbermaid, Plastipak and M&M Mars.
Currently at full tenant capacity, the 5,000-acre site finds itself at a crossroads in terms of its aviation-oriented development, Metzler said.
“The only options we have right now are to continue to grow and accommodate demand for aviation space,” he said.
Putting it in perspective, only about 3 million square feet of the park’s 18 million square feet has been developed thus far, leaving an opportunity to expand by a factor of six. However, the infrastructure isn’t there to make such an expansion a reality yet. Site planning is already underway to decide how best to make it happen.
The regional economic engine hosts 2,000 to 3,000 total workers among its 15 tenants at any given time, and it could get bigger.
Metzler said Thursday it was possible that new hangars could be added by this time next year. A swath of dirt land closer to the Dr Pepper Snapple Group facility could be built out for distribution and manufacturing in the future, but it will require work. And old, unused administrative buildings would need to be torn down to develop feasible land uses in their place.
Pacific Aerospace, which provides maintenance, repair and overhaul services for heavy aircraft, has likely been the “most active in gobbling up space,” Metzler said.
According to Board Chairman and President David Green, the company has benefited from a strong push in manufacturing by Boeing and Airbus and has been less affected by shifts in the economy.
In a down economy, clients park their planes, Green explained. In an up economy, they need maintenance on those planes to get them in the skies again.
Both circumstances are fruitful for Pacific Aerospace, and the High Desert weather apparently is a persuasive factor too.
“It’s the perfect climate to be able to do long-term storage,” he said.
SCLA itself boasts 240 acres of aircraft parking with as many as 300 planes grounded at a time, Metzler said. Some will be recycled or scrapped for their still-valuable pieces. Others will be destroyed by a crane claw. Many are simply in need of routine repairs and will fly again.
The cluster of these parked planes Thursday could easily give observers the impression that they were left there to rot, a junkyard of relics, like the remnants of the old Air Force base still found at the park.
“We do have some of that,” Metzler said, “but largely a lot of these are going to go back in the air.”