Klamath Falls has found a new airport director and we wish him well in fulfilling the airport’s transportation and economic missions.
A well-run airport is especially important in an isolated area where the nearest alternative is at the other end of a 70-mile drive on Highway 140 over a mountain pass. That drive can get kind of dicey during winter — some winters, anyway.
The airport, owned and operated by the city of Klamath Falls, has an economic impact that goes well beyond the city limits and spreads throughout the county and region.
Known officially as the Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport in an effort to capitalize on the region’s best-known attraction — and the state’s only national park — the airport is an important tool with large employers in conducting business and attracting and keeping employees. That includes Sky Lakes Medical Center and the Air National Guard at Kingsley Field, which leases space from the city there.
Taking over the airport director’s job as of July 29 will be John Barsalou, 55, who has 30 years of experience in airport management in Michigan and Alaska and is an Air Force veteran. He’s also familiar with Southern Oregon, having visited here, and has family in Jackson County on the other side of that mountain pass.
Perhaps the biggest chore of the moment at the airport is to secure a reliable airline to provide commercial passenger service. United Express, a feeder line for United Airlines, pulled out of Klamath Falls in 2013.
In March, Murphy Forner, vice president of ground operations and services for Alaska-based Peninsula Airways — commonly called PenAir — was in Klamath Falls visiting local officials about the possibility of providing air service. That remains a possibility and it was considered a positive sign for Klamath Falls when PenAir, completed a deal a few months ago to serve Crescent City, Calif. Twice-a-day service there begins Sept. 15.
During an interim in airport management that began with the retirement of John Longley, who retired last October, City Manager Nathan Cherpeski, served as acting airport director.
Filling the position is important not just to Klamath Falls but to the entire region. The airport’s impact is widely felt.