FAA officials defend oversight of Allegiant AirBy KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
April 17. 2018 1:04PM
PORTSMOUTH — Federal Aviation Administration officials defended the agency in the wake of a “60 Minutes” report about Allegiant Air that relied on public government documents.
The CBS news show aired its investigative story Sunday night. On Monday, three senators who oversee airlines demanded more information about safety concerns related to Allegiant.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the public needs to know whether the FAA is properly overseeing the airline. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also expressed concern and asked for an explanation from FAA officials.
CBS reported Allegiant had more than 100 flight problems between January 2016 and October 2017, including serious mechanical incidents, aborted takeoffs, cabin pressure loss, emergency descents and unscheduled landings.
FAA officials said Monday that since 2015, they have engaged in 48 compliance actions with Allegiant in which they investigated violations and ensured the carrier took corrective action.
Under the agency’s Compliance Philosophy, if FAA officials encounter intentionally reckless behavior, flagrant violations, or refusal to cooperate in corrective action by carriers, it undertakes legal enforcement actions. If an air carrier is unwilling to comply the agency revokes the company’s ability to operate, which was not necessary in Allegiant’s case, they said.
Officials also said a 2016 review of Allegiant did not find any systemic safety or regulatory problems. The review did identify a number of less serious issues, which were addressed by the company, they said.
FAA officials apparently tried to explain their position to Michael Karzis and Vanessa Fica of CBS News before the story aired Sunday.
In an April 11 letter sent by Ali Bahrami, an FAA aviation safety associate administrator, further background on the FAA’s oversight of Allegiant was included.
“The FAA’s oversight of Allegiant has produced results. The rate of incidents reported by Allegiant to the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization has trended downward in recent years. These incidents include diversions and emergency landings, as well as other events such as passenger disturbances and medical events,” Bahrami said.
Bahrami explained that in the 2015 fiscal year, Allegiant reported 0.003225 events per 1,000 departures. In 2016, that number was 0.002075 and 0.002875 in 2017.
In the first two quarters of Fiscal Year 2018, Allegiant reported 0.0015 events per 1,000 departures, Bahrami said.
Even before “60 Minutes” aired, stock prices for Allegiant took a hit when investors heard of the report. At noon Tuesday, shares stood at 144.88.
According to its website, Allegiant Air has almost 130 flights to and from destinations in the United States and Puerto Rico.
There are flights offered from Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, as well as Daytona Beach, Orlando and Fort Myers in Florida.