9 Investigates

Serious Allegiant Airlines safety issues revealed in FAA reports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A series of serious safety incidents involving Allegiant Airlines at Jacksonville International Airport has led to a 90-day Federal Aviation Administration review, reports say.

Engine failure, loss of navigation, diverted flights: We have thousands of pages detailing problems with Allegiant Airlines flights.

These revelations come as Allegiant Air continues to expand services out of JIA. It took three months, but through a public records request, Action News Jax obtained 2,400 pages of incident reports for Allegiant flights to and from Florida.

Some of the findings are disturbing to industry insiders who say they could be a sign of an airline in trouble.

“We lost an engine, we're declaring an emergency.”

It's what you don't hear the pilot say over the intercom.

“Allegiant 737, okay, we need to declare an emergency. We have an engine failure.”

Sometimes, the pilot doesn't even realize the danger.

“Allegiant 746, it appears you got some flames coming out of the left engine.”

Last October, a similar incident: an Allegiant Air pilot aborted takeoff in Las Vegas after the tower spotted the plane's right engine on fire. It was the second aborted takeoff at that airport in two days.

“In my first three years flying with American, I had three precautionary shutdowns on an older airplane and after that nothing,” said aviation expert Wayne Ziskal.

Ziskal flew for American Airlines for 35 years. He said he knows what Allegiant Air pilots ask themselves every day:

“Is this airplane safe to fly?” Ziskal said.

We dug through thousands of pages of FAA incident reports and found 61 aborted takeoffs and diverted flights and a host of air and ground incidents.

“It's high. It is high,” Ziskal said.

Over the past two years, 76 flights to and from Florida had an issue that warranted an FAA report. Ten engine issues, two engine fires and three incidents where navigational or electrical systems failed during flight.

“Those are nightmares for pilots. Especially if you're in the weather. It's not where you want to be. Electrical power is what runs these modern airplanes,” Ziskal said.

Just one week ago, July 8, an Allegiant flight diverted to Jacksonville for an emergency landing, the crew reporting smoke in the cockpit.

Ziskal said there's a reason Allegiant Air has mechanical issues.

“The average fleet age of Allegiant Air is about 27-28 years old,” Ziskal said. “They didn't pay very much for the airplanes so they can have a low cost model when they charge fees.”

In March, passengers headed to Michigan from Sanford were forced off three separate planes because of mechanical issues.

"It was crazy, three different planes they all broke down," passenger Chris Sloan said.

The number of incidents has prompted a 90 day FAA review of Allegiant Air.

The pilot's union, Teamsters Local 1224, called the FAA review long overdue, saying: "It's clear that Allegiant's bare-minimum approach to its operation isn't working ... With an emergency occurring virtually every week due to a preventable maintenance issue ... "

“I will say this, the pilots obviously seem to be doing the correct job here. What I mean by that is we haven't had any fatal accidents with this. They're doing what they need to do to protect and maintain the trust of their passengers,” Ziskal said.

Recently, Allegiant Air added four new Jacksonville routes: Indianapolis, Columbus, Asheville and St. Louis. That makes for a total of nine different routes to and from JIA.

The CEO of Allegiant Air wouldn't go on camera, but the company said it's doing everything it can to cooperate with the FAA. It's promising to share the results of the FAA review, which should come down within days.

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