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Bring back screening to Klamath airport

The Transportation Security Administration's decision not to resume passenger screening services at the Klamath Falls airport is a blow to that community's efforts to resume regional air travel that had been uninterrupted for nearly 70 years until last year.

A commercial air carrier that wants to resume service to Klamath Falls is reportedly working on a "forward screening" program at the Portland airport, but that is a dubious workaround that seems unlikely to succeed.

Crater Lake-Klamath Regional Airport has been without commercial air service since SkyWest Airlines pulled out in June 2014. In August, Alaska-based Peninsula Air, also known as PenAir, announced it would begin offering flights as early as November. But federal aviation rules require security screening to be restored before flights can resume, and that's up to the TSA.

The security agency told Klamath Falls officials earlier this month that unpredictable passenger numbers did not justify the expense of resuming screening.

Undaunted, PenAir said it was working with the Port of Portland to establish a way to screen passengers after they arrive in Portland from small regional airports. Oregon's congressional delegation has raised strong objections to that plan, as well they might.

If screening passengers and their luggage is necessary to prevent terrorist activity, it makes no sense to allow any airplanes to take off with unscreened passengers. And screening passengers after they arrive at a major international airport is a logistical nightmare we doubt Portland airport officials will be eager to take on.

Beyond that, if passengers leaving Klamath Falls could fly only to Portland, that would limit potential future service to California or other destinations, which would help increase the passenger numbers the TSA is concerned about.

At stake in all of this is $1 million in grant money the Klamath Falls airport could qualify for if it can reach 10,000 passenger boardings next year. If it misses that mark, it would get only $150,000 for capital improvements.

The TSA should resume screening, and help Klamath Falls regain the boost that air service would provide to the local economy.