On A Wing and Some Air

The Airline You Might Not Want To Fly

The Airline You Might Not Want To Fly

If you’re planning a vacation this Spring or Summer there is an airline that you might want to avoid when looking at ticket prices.

Allegiant Airlines is a Las Vegas based airline but is known by many throughout the country. They are not like your bigger airlines operating multiple flights a day to connection hubs, but rather to smaller communities connecting them to vacation and leisure destinations and only operating flights once or twice a week. They operate differently using a low cost business model to help reduce the cost of their ticket prices. You have a base price for your ticket, and from there you can add on things like checking a bag or paying to choose a specific seat, or even buy food on board – for a nominal charge of course.

If you ask any airline employee what is the most paramount priority at their carrier, the response should always be, “Safety” – However, recent incidents over the past year at Allegiant Air have begun to become more and more common involving safety related concerns.

We’ve been watching things unfold over the past year as Allegiant Airlines has been racking up time on the news for maintenance problems and safety concerns. The problem with having a mechanical issue in flight is that unlike a car, you can’t just pull over, and pop the hood to see what the problem is. You instead must divert to the nearest city, and if the aircraft isn’t fixable, that can lead into a lengthy delay. If something major happens however, and you can’t get to a nearby city soon enough, the end result could be catastrophic. That was the case in the ValueJet Flight 592 crash in 1996. Because you can’t just pull over to fix a problem, the FAA (in the United States) has regulated air travel and maintenance for airlines. As a result air travel is the safest way to get from place to place. You have a better chance of being killed by a cow or being struck by lightning than being harmed in an aviation accident.

We started doing some reading up on Allegiant and further researching about the carrier, what we found was not good. Constant maintenance problems seem to keep popping up. Currently there have been only minor injuries and no loss of life, and we hope it stays that way. We started out doing a quick recap of what’s been going on at Allegiant Airlines, however, the “quick” part became longer and longer, an almost unbelievable amount of incidents just over the past year – this is a list of what’s taken place since Jan 2015 alone.

This is what we found:

March 5, 2016A MD88 aircraft traveling from Fort Wayne, IN to Saint Petersburg, FL had to reject their takeoff due to an engine failure.

March 2, 2016An Airbus A320 flying from Orlando, FL to Indianapolis, IN had to rapidly descend and divert to Jacksonville, FL because the aircraft lost pressurization.

March 1, 2016An Airbus A319 flying from Mesa, AZ to Bellingham, WA had to divert to Elko, NV because of smell of electrical smoke in the cabin.

Feb 25, 2016A MD83 aircraft traveling from Saint Petersburg, FL to Kansas City, MO had abort their takeoff due to an engine failure after a loud bang was heard and flames began to emit from the engine.

Feb 12, 2016A MD83 aircraft flying from Saint Petersburg, FL to Omaha, NE had to divert to Birmingham, AL after an electrical smoke odor began to permeate through the flight deck and cabin.

Feb 3, 2016A MD83 aircraft flying from Orlando, FL to Allentown, PA burst both of its two main left-side tires on landing.

Jan 7, 2016 A MD83 aircraft flying from Billings, MT to Mesa, AZ – the pilots had to shut down one of the engines due to a loud bang followed by severe vibrations and divert to Grand Junction, CO.

Dec 31, 2015A MD83 flying from Orlando, FL to Cedar Rapids, IA – the number two engine failed and the flight diverted to Chattanooga, TN.

Dec 31, 2015A MD83 flying from Orlando, FL to Bangor, ME – reported smell of smoke in the cabin followed by floor and side panels heating as they diverted to Providence, RI.

Dec 28, 2015An A320 flying from Orlando, FL to Appleton, WI – on descent to landing the aircraft de-ice system failed. Due to weather in Appleton the aircraft had to climb back over 34,000 feet and divert to Fargo, ND – 442 miles away.

Dec 5, 2015A MD88 traveling from Raleigh, NC to Saint Petersburg, FL – took off but had to return to Raleigh after smoke filled the cabin.

Oct 11, 2015A MD82 taking off Las Vegas to Fresno rejected it’s takeoff for an engine failure

Aug 24, 2015A B757 taking off Austin to Las Vegas rejected it’s takeoff for an engine problem however by the time it made it to the gate, 7 of the 8 main gear tires had deflated.

Aug 17, 2015A MD83 taking off Las Vegas to Peoria, IL rejected it’s takeoff after premature nose rotation.

Aug 3, 2015A MD83 Saint Petersburg to Richmond, VA – engine failure in flight, diverted to Greensboro.

Aug 2, 2015A B757 flying from Las Vegas to Fresno, CA – after takeoff one of the engines suffered a compressor stall, the aircraft returned to Las Vegas.

July 21, 2015A MD83 flying Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Memphis, TN had smoke in the cabin and had to divert to Orlando, FL.

July 3, 2015 A MD83 flying from Ashville, NC to Punta Gorda, FL diverted to Saint Petersburg due to flight control problems.

June 25, 2015A MD83 flying from Saint Petersburg to Niagara Falls, NY diverted to Orlando for a sensor fail.

June 18, 2015An A320 flying Saint Petersburg to Pittsburg, returned to Saint Petersburg after finding that the aircraft would not pressurize properly.

June 13, 2015A MD83 flying from Las Vegas to Moline, IL diverted back to Las Vegas after one of the engines failed.

May 7, 2015A MD83 flying from Orlando to Moline, IL diverted to Knoxville, TN after one of the engines failed for low oil pressure.

April 2, 2015A MD83 flying from Saint Petersburg to Cedar Rapids, IA diverted back to Saint Petersburg due to a high over-temperature indication in the tail section.

Jan 22, 2015A MD83 flying from Las Vegas to Great Falls, MT diverted back to Las Vegas after a smoke indication in the cabin.

From the above listed incidents it’s clear to see that Allegiant has certainly been seeing an abnormally large amount of maintenance related problems. In doing our research, our first point we could see was the majority of aircraft Allegiant operates are older, used aircraft. However, the FAA has strict operational policies in place to create anything critical from taking happening during flight operations. Allegiant operates a fleet of mostly MD80 series aircraft in addition to some Airbus A320 series and Boeing 757 aircraft (the 757s are scheduled to be removed from the fleet). Their total fleet is about 80 aircraft. In comparison Delta Airlines is known for utilizing older used aircraft as well, the current fleet size at Delta is over 800 – It should pointed out that Delta operates over 100 MD80 series aircraft similar to those operated by Allegiant. Delta however utilizes their aircraft on a higher usage operating longer days with the aircraft on more flights than Allegiant does. For example, Delta might use an aircraft to operate multiple flights during the day, using the aircraft between 11-13 hours a day. Allegiant Airlines however often only utilizes and aircraft on average between 5 and 8 hours a day.

We reviewed the reported incidents at Delta and found about 54 case since Jan 2015 that could be accountable to maintenance issues. Allegiant in the same time period has racked up 24 incidents since Jan 2015. How is it then, that an airline operating a fleet one tenth the size of Delta Airlines, is able to collect almost half the same number of incidents when utilizing the aircraft less? It makes absolutely no sense.

Last year after a number of incidents that happened within months of each other the FAA put Allegiant under their radar and began investigating. The FAA however found that their paperwork was in order and could find no problems or reasons to suspend their operations. The only worry here is that the FAA has had a bad habit over the years of being reactionary and not proactive to avoid accidents and incidents. Most directives and changes in aviation practices come as the result of a major aviation accident.

While it is one thing to believe that an airline is not maintaining itself properly, it is entirely another thing to have the airlines pilot union post on it’s webpage a letter stating that they feel the aircraft are not provided adequate maintenance. What’s worse? How about a pilot being fired after an emergency landing where he deemed that conditions were dangerous, and asked the flight attendants to evacuate the aircraft for the safety of the passengers. Seems like a good idea. However the airline didn’t think so and subsequently fired him over doing so. That pilot is now suing Allegiant Airlines.

It would seem Allegiant has had a streak of “bad luck” in dealing with maintenance issues on their aircraft. The only bit of good luck has been that so far there have only been minor injuries during their evacuations and that there has been no loss of life yet. Whatever is going on at Allegiant, one thing the carrier should realize – especially being a Las Vegas based airline – most streaks of luck, eventually run out.

 

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