WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced that the U.S. Senate today passed legislation renewing and updating the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s authorities, which includes a bipartisan provision pushed by Merkley and Wyden, the Treating Small Airports with Fairness (TSA Fairness) Act. The TSA Fairness Act would restore Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening at, among other smaller airports, the Crater Late-Klamath airport. This provision is important for the restoration of commercial service at the airport.
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a standalone version of the TSA Fairness Act last week, and is expected to act soon on the broader FAA legislation. The TSA Fairness Act is supported by a bipartisan coalition in both chambers, including Oregon Representatives Greg Walden and Peter DeFazio in the House.
“With the summer tourism season just around the corner, it’s more urgent than ever for the TSA to resume screening so that the Klamath Falls airport can restore commercial service,” said Merkley. “With this Senate vote and the House’s vote last week, we are very close to getting this done and I hope we can get it to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”
“Klamath Falls area residents and businesses deserve commercial air service that allows their economy to take flight,” Wyden said. “TSA screening is a key part of bringing back that much-needed service, and I am gratified that we have made such significant progress toward achieving this goal so crucial to rural Oregon.”
The Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport has been working to restore commercial service since carrier SkyWest left the airport in June 2014. Last fall, the city of Klamath Falls received a commitment from Alaska-based carrier PenAir to bring back commercial service with daily flights to Portland. However, the TSA stopped providing screening services at the airport after SkyWest’s departure. Despite repeated calls from the local community and from Oregon’s congressional delegation for the TSA to resume service so that PenAir can begin commercial flights, the federal agency has thus far refused.
The TSA Fairness Act would require the TSA to restore screening services to any airport that lost service after January 1, 2013 and that has a guarantee from a commercial airline to resume service within one year.
The Crater Lake-Klamath airport is a key infrastructure link for Crater Lake National Park, which is one of Oregon’s premier tourist destinations; the U.S. Military, which trains all F-15 pilots at the Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base adjacent to the Crater Lake-Klamath airport; and for the entire Southern Oregon community. Without commercial service from Klamath Falls, many Southern Oregon residents are forced to drive several hours each way to access commercial flights from Medford or Redmond.