Tuesday, 31 December 2019

FAA Needs To Improve Its Oversight To Address Maintenance Issues Impacting Safety at Allegiant Air

The US Department of Transportation has issued a bulleting regarding the budget carrier Allegiant Air following an increased number of in-flight engine shutdowns, aborted takeoffs, and unscheduled landings—have raised concerns about its maintenance practices.

Allegiant Air is the 11th largest US passenger airline, carrying approximately 14 million passengers a year and has grown rapidly in the last year or so. The US Department of Transportation conducted an audit of the carrier with the main objectives of assessing FAA’s processes for investigating improper maintenance practices at Allegiant Air. Specifically, we assessed 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.

This audit 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.

The DoT made nine recommendations to improve the effectiveness of FAA’s oversight of air carrier maintenance programs. FAA concurred with eight of our nine recommendations and partially concurred with one. We consider the eight recommendations resolved but open, pending completion of planned actions. We are asking FAA to reconsider its actions for the partially-concurred recommendation.

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