Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden’s bipartisan Treating Small Airports with Fairness Act, or ‘TSA Fairness Act,’ took one step closer to passage when the Senate Commerce Committee voted to attach it to the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill.
This legislation would restore TSA screening to the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport, a prerequisite for PenAir to bring commercial air service back to the region, according to a joint press release.
“This is a critical transportation link for the region, and I am hopeful that this bipartisan legislation will move quickly through the House and Senate so we can get the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport back up and running,” said Merkley.
“Today’s vote out of committee is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to working with my partners in the Senate to get this legislation over the finish line.”
“This is a significant step forward for Klamath Falls area residents expecting TSA to be a better partner in helping ensure their airport’s viability to make connections essential to the rural Oregon economy,” Wyden said. “While more work remains to pass this bipartisan legislation, today’s development sends a strong signal of support that Klamath Falls area residents should be able to count on TSA to work for them just as it does for larger cities.”
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.
Oregon Congressmen Greg Walden and Peter Defazio have introduced identical legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition to Merkley, Wyden, Walden and DeFazio, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Will Hurd (R-TX), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Jason Chaffets (R-UT), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS).