After '60 Minutes' report, MidAmerica director says Allegiant is safe to fly

Those include engine failures in mid-air as well as cases of smoke and fumes in the cabin.

Allegiant Air offers flights from Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth to Myrtle Beach in SC, as well as Daytona Beach, Orlando and Fort Myers in Florida.

The "60 Minutes" investigation used fresher data to examine similar issues. The pilot later said he believed the plane would have crashed if it had become airborne. "Incidents referenced are years old, and took place before our most recent, comprehensive FAA audit".

The age of the planes in use by Allegiant Air is likely behind its high number of safety issues over the last few years.

According to the report, most of the mechanical issues can be attributed to Allegiant's fleet of around 30 MD80s which are an average of 28 years old, ancient by modern aviation standards.

Former National Transport Safety Board member John Goglia also revealed that Allegiant's 60 unscheduled landings and 46 in-flight emergencies were alarming considering the size of the airline.

Allegiant, which has never had a crash, noted that it has carried 90 million passengers safely since beginning operations in 2001 and that it has less than a third as many MD-80s in its fleet as Delta.

Allegiant Air defended its safety record in an internal message to employees and in a statement Sunday.

It included charges from the head of the union representing Allegiant's pilots that the carrier discourages pilots from reporting maintenance problems.

In a letter sent to its customers, Allegiant Air Vice President of Operations Captain Eric Gust called the 60 Minutes report "irresponsible, grossly misleading". "If there were any problems, I think they would take care of it". As of February 2, it operated 37 McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 planes and 53 Airbus A319 and A320 jets. The audit, a Certificate Holder Evaluation Process (CHEP) done every five years on airlines and fix stations in addition to routine oversight, is a top-to-bottom review on an operator's system to ensure it is complying with regulations.

Officials at the Ogdensburg airport are aware of the 60 Minutes report, but they are saying it doesn't apply here.

You probably have used this airline to save money, but a bombshell report says it could be one of the most unsafe airlines in the country.

"We do have a lot of confidence, though, because we work closely with the FAA and we know how strict their guidelines are", says O'Neill.

Allegiant is known for low-priced, no-frill flights.

"Ogdensburg International Airport (OGS) is accomplishing great things for the local economy and safety in aviation is number one".

"The FAA has zero tolerance for intentional, reckless behavior, flagrant violations, or refusal to co-operate in corrective action by air carriers", it said in a statement, adding that it has "conducted ongoing evaluations of Allegiant's safety compliance, as it does with all carriers, and has not identified any significant or systemic problems with the carrier's current operation".

  • Eleanor Harrison