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Audit: FAA needs to improve oversight to address maintenance issues at Allegiant Air
19 December 2019

Following an audit, the Office of Inspector General  concluded that the FAA needs to improve its oversight to address maintenance issues impacting safety at Allegiant Air.

Low cost airline Allegiant Air, the 11th largest passenger airline in the United States, grew faster than the airline industry as a whole in 2018 by carrying approximately 14 million passengers. However, incidents at this air carrier –  including a series of in-flight engine shutdowns, aborted takeoffs, and unscheduled landings – have raised concerns about its maintenance practices.  The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Transportation thus initiated an audit in 2018 to assess FAA’s processes for investigating improper maintenance practices at Allegiant Air. Specifically, FAA’s (1) oversight of longstanding maintenance issues impacting safety at Allegiant Air and (2) process for ensuring Allegiant Air implemented effective corrective actions to address the root causes of maintenance problems.

The OIG found that since 2011, FAA inspectors have not consistently documented risks associated with 36 Allegiant Air in-flight engine shutdowns for its MD-80 fleet or correctly assessed the root cause of maintenance issues. This was because inspectors did not follow FAA’s inspector guidance that requires them to document changes in their oversight once they have identified areas of increased risk. Also, FAA’s Compliance Program and inspector guidance do not include key factors related to carriers’ violations of Federal regulations. Specifically, they do not contain provisions for inspectors to consider the severity of outcomes when deciding what action to take following a non-compliance. As a result, FAA is missing opportunities to address maintenance issues and mitigate safety risks in a timely manner.

Nine safety recommendations were issued to the FAA.