Klamath Falls will get air service back by the fall

Passenger air service is expected to return to Klamath Falls in October following passage of federal legislation that will bring back Transportation Security Administration personnel to the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport.

“We have it on good authority that TSA is coming to Klamath Falls,” Klamath Falls Mayor Todd Kellstrom told a gathering Thursday morning. “It’s a good day to be alive and be in Klamath Falls.”

A regional airline, Pen Air, has said it will follow suit and is expected to begin operations in Klamath Falls in October, according to City Manager Nathan Cherpeski.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed legislation renewing and updating the Federal Aviation Administration’s authorities. The legislation includes a bipartisan provision officially called the Treating Small Airports with Fairness Act, but pointedly referred to as the TSA Fairness Act.

John Barsalou, manager of the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport, said the city is waiting for a written response from the TSA as to when they will arrive.

“TSA will still need some lead time to come back and reoccupy their space here,” Cherpeski said.

The Klamath-area airport has been working to restore commercial service since carrier SkyWest left the airport in June 2014. That effort was complicated because TSA had stopped providing screening services at the airport following SkyWest’s departure. After TSA initially refused to bring back federal screening at the airport, the Oregon congressional delegation became involved, pressing the agency to reconsider.

In February, Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Reps. Greg Walden and Peter DeFazio were among those who introduced the TSA Fairness Act, which requires TSA to restore screening services at airports such as Klamath Falls and other small airports around the country facing similar circumstances. The TSA Fairness Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in a unanimous vote last week as part of a broader aviation bill.

Oregon Republicans and Democrats alike hailed the return of air service to the area.

“The TSA’s initial decision to stay out of Klamath Falls didn’t make any sense for the local economy or the country’s safety,” Walden said in a release. “But an outcry from the community and our bipartisan work in Congress forced them to change their minds. I’m glad the TSA is finally going to do the right thing so that safe, reliable air service can return to Klamath Falls.”

“The return of commercial air service to the Klamath Falls area provides a turbocharge to the local economy and the community, which deserves tremendous credit for making such a strong case to achieve this victory,” Wyden said. “I am gratified that the TSA has recognized the merit of restoring screening at the airport, an essential link both for rural Oregonians and travelers wanting to visit our state.”