Sunday, September 11, 2016

Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport (KLMT) readies for PenAir

John Barsalou, manager of the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport, was recently awarded The President’s Award Leadership Excellence from the Northwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives for his work spearheading the TSA Fairness Act. 

John Barsalou, manager of the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport, earlier this summer unlocks the door that in October will once again lead passengers to the runway.

Signs of incoming commercial air service through PenAir to the region are springing up at the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport on a weekly basis, according to airport administrative staff.

Transportation Security Administration employees have been trickling in to the terminal and airport administration buildings this week, according to airport staff, as measurements are made for incoming equipment and preparations are made for staff to fill up what has been a fairly quiet terminal the past two years.

“It’s a long time coming, everybody helps out, a lot of finger prints along the way,” said Linda Tepper, who has served as business manager for the airport for 21 years.

PenAir will operate two week-day flights and one weekend flight in a Saab 340 turbo-prop aircraft.

“The community overall is going to be very, very happy with the PenAir flights. It’s a comfy plane, it’s going to be good service.”

TSA screening staff are scheduled to arrive at the airport the week of Sept. 19, according to airport staff, and the first flights take off from the runway for Portland on Wednesday, Oct. 5. The first flight takes off at 6:40 a.m., arriving at the Portland International Airport at approximately 8 a.m. The second flight takes off from PDX at 1 p.m. and arrives in Klamath Falls around 2:20 p.m.

“They’ve got some computer-based learning that they’ll be doing,” Tepper said, of the incoming TSA employees. “I’ll they’ll also be transitioning back and forth to Medford for some on-the-job training just to kind of get acclimated to everything. We should start seeing equipment starting to show up that week, staff show up that week.”

SkyWest departed from the airport in June 2014 after flights failed to fill up to airline standards.

TSA refederalized the airport to offer screening services earlier this year, and with a steadfast commitment from PenAir, facilitated the start of air service at the airport this fall.

Administrators are hopeful that not only will flights fill with PenAir, but that the airline will remain in the Klamath Basin.

“Air service is our primary focus right now,” said John Barsalou, airport manager.

And it has been a focus for the city for the last two years.

Barsalou traveled to Washington, D.C., during that time to speak with members of the congressional delegation about the region’s need for air service.

“We took off the gloves and discovered there were other airports across the country fighting the battle,” Barsalou said.

Both Tepper and Barsalou were recognized Sept. 1 in Big Sky, Mont., for their efforts in helping regain commercial air service.

Tepper was awarded Airport Executive of the Year with the President’s Award for Leadership Excellence from the Northwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) for her part in helping to regain commercial air service and recruitment of a new airport manager and operations manager.

Barsalou, airport manager, was recognized regionally with the President’s Award for Leadership Excellence from the Northwest Chapter of the AAAE for his efforts leading the formation of the TSA Fairness Act.

The act prompted the TSA to refederalize airports with committed commercial air service but no TSA service, including Klamath Falls.

“It was a great acknowledgment,” Barsalou said. “That wasn’t the reason for doing this. Obviously getting air service back to our community.

“We were told through this process there were 22 airports around the country that were going to be impacted if this bill did not pass,” he added.

Flight Timing

Timing of the start of commercial air service has been a priority for airport administrators in planning with PenAir for the airline’s arrival in Klamath Falls.

“We were pretty anxious about that. That was one of the things that we talked about when we chose the start date that I didn’t want it to be too soon,” Barsalou said.

“You’ve got to get everybody in place, otherwise you’re just shooting yourself in the foot if you start before everybody’s ready.”

While summer travel season has come and gone, airport staff are looking forward to the opportunity to offer commercial air travel to the Air National Guard, students, and faculty as universities start fall term , and business owners and area residents as the weather grows colder.

“It is sort of the tail end of the leisure tourism season on the other hand, it is the start of school, universities, and all of that,” Tepper said. “The roads are going to start to get slippery and so people will be more inclined to … fly to Portland as oppose to drive up over the pass.”

Tepper has served on a marketing committee that, throughout the loss of air service, which has searched for other ways to promote tourism in and out of Klamath Falls.

“We looked at a lot of different things, shuttles and everything trying to look at charters out of here,” Tepper said. “It’s very difficult to make that pencil out. You have to have a lot of people on a charter to make the ticket price.”

Pulling out all the stops

City Manager Nathan Cherpeski, who served as interim airport manager during the loss of air service to the city, even considered forming the city’s own airline at one point.

The idea never gained traction, but points to the lengths the city went to look for viable commercial air service options.

Tepper credits Jim Chadderdon, executive director of Discover Klamath, with pitching Klamath Falls to neighboring regions around the state and Pacific Northwest region.

“Everytime we had an opportunity to pitch to PenAir, it was a real effort,” Tepper said.

Much ado at the airport

Along with the return of commercial air service, the airport is also working on plans to build and design an airport maintenance hangar, with the potential for use by incoming PenAir or another company.

Construction could start in summer 2017, according to a previous Herald and News story.

“We’re working with PenAir to see what their use of the maintenance hangar will be and then determine what else we have to do to fill that building,” Barsalou said.

“Pen Air — They get the first opportunity … we designed it around them, but others can use it, so we’re also designing it for other users.”

Barsalou said an airplane wash station is also part of the hangar design.

“They’re flying outside of the state to get their planes washed,” Barsalou said.

“We can provide that here.”

The airport also received notice of an award for an approximately $8 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for construction of Taxiway B. The city has already allocated a 6.75 percent match, or between $450,000-$480,000, for the project, scheduled to kick off in Spring 2017.

Airport administrators are also placing a focus on marketing a total 250 acres of property at the airport’s business park for development. Sites have either direct access to the airport taxiway or apron.

“Our operational numbers are up, I think 20 percent (from 2014 to 2015),” Barsalou said, referring to the frequency of take-offs and landings at the airport.

“And we’re going to get air service so we anticipate that going up as well.”

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