Allegiant Air says it’s boosting safety facilities after mishaps

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Allegiant Airlines, which came under special scrutiny by federal safety regulators last year, said operations are improving after it increased spending on safety management, training facilities and younger aircraft.
“We’re investing in everything we know to invest in,” Chief Operating Officer Jude Bricker told reporters. “Most of the indicators we watch are positive. Everything is moving in the right direction.”
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stepped up oversight at some areas of the airline last year after a mechanical failure caused the nose of an Allegiant jet to rise off the ground prematurely before takeoff from Las Vegas, defying the crew’s attempts to push it down. The carrier later discovered that a critical piece of equipment in the tail of the Boeing Co. MD-83 had come loose.
FAA officials said in October that the agency intensified its scrutiny of Allegiant’s “flight operations and aircraft maintenance programmes” as a result. When the airline inspected all its MD-80s after the incident, it found three jets with bolts that weren’t properly secured to aircraft control systems, according to repair logs obtained by Bloomberg.
Following last year’s incidents, Allegiant hired an outside auditor to review its safety programs and regulatory compliance and invested in an extensive safety database and risk assessment system. It also has added pilot training beyond FAA requirements, actively encouraged employees to report concerns and stepped up oversight of contractors that work on engines, airframes and aircraft components.
The airline said it’s seen a decrease in the rate of flight interruptions — maintenance-caused diversions, turn backs after takeoff or aborted takeoffs in excess of 80 knots — to 1.37 per 1,000 flights in March from 2.81 per 1,000 in April 2015. Engine failure rates are steady or declining, said Eric Gust, vice president for operations.
The carrier, a unit of Allegiant Travel Co., also said it’s resolving a pilot shortage that stemmed from adding flights faster than it could train employees.
Reports about last year’s difficulties have led to more questions from passengers about safety issues, Bricker said. The Las Vegas-based airline will operate 333 daily nonstop flights at 113 airports as of July, primarily ferrying passengers from smaller cities to leisure destinations such as Las Vegas, San Francisco and New Orleans.
While sales haven’t fallen, “we take it on faith” that the incidents discouraged some travelers from flying Allegiant, Bricker said.

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