Allegiant passengers say safety is compromised

Posted at 6:00 PM, Oct 30, 2015
and last updated 2018-04-16 19:53:12-04

A warning about part of the Allegiant Air fleet. 

A warning that experts say should have gone out, but didn't. 

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears continues her coverage of Las Vegas' hometown airline, and why passengers say they're now afraid to fly.

For months, Contact 13 and media across the country have been reporting on the series of serious incidents with Allegiant airplanes. 

The most serious on Aug. 17 when the nose of a Las Vegas to Peoria, Illinois plane rose prematurely before it was safe to fly. 

Pilots lost control after an elevator boost actuator in the tail became disconnected. 

They had to cut power to the plane and abort takeoff at 138 miles per hour.

"Any time you have a flight control malfunction, whether it's on the ground preparing for takeoff or actually taking off, that is a major deal," said former National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia.

Goglia investigated crashes due to primary flight control system malfunctions. 

He recalls an accident in Sacramento, "where we actually lost a DC8, which is a very big airplane, because a mechanic failed to secure one nut on the elevator system."

In the wake of the nose-up incident in Las Vegas, Allegiant said it inspected its entire MD-80 fleet to ensure the flight control systems were working properly. 

They said all aircraft were found to be in working order. 

But insiders showed Contact 13 maintenance records on three planes that proved otherwise. 

Two issues were discovered before Allegiant claimed all was well and the third just days later. 

Two planes had problems with nuts either missing or improperly secured on the elevators--panels in the tail which make the plane go up and down. 

The third aircraft was missing a nut safety cotter pin on a wing in a panel that's used in turns.

"They were not in a condition for safe flight.  They were not airworthy!  All three of those airplanes."

That's exactly what worries Kelly Olson.

"Until I feel more confident in their safety, I will not be flying with them with my child."

The first-time mother was a frequent Allegiant flyer who now questions her family's safety in the sky.

"Knowing that and knowing the history, especially recently, was very concerning to me."

Contact 13 learned it's not just the three planes in August that had issues with elevators.

Another internal maintenance record shows in April 2013, an Allegiant flight had to "return to field due to elevator problem."

Passengers who've reached out to Contact 13 are increasingly troubled by Allegiant's maintenance issues. 

Email after email detail stories of delays, flight cancelations, aborted takeoffs and emergency landings--all due to mechanical issues with the planes.

Allegiant refused to talk to us for this story. 

They've accused us of lacking objectivity and distorting facts. 

Insiders say the airline is trying to cover up and downplay problems, putting profit over passengers. 

From the FAA:
The FAA intensified its focus on certain areas of Allegiant Air’s operations following events last summer in Fargo, N.D., and Las Vegas.
- The events in question were a low-fuel landing in Fargo and an aborted takeoff in Las Vegas.
- The FAA intensified its focus on the carrier’s flight operations and aircraft maintenance programs.
- Flight operations includes crew training, checks and qualifications, among other things.
- The FAA is aware that Allegiant discovered issues with elevator assemblies on two aircraft when it inspected its fleet following the rejected takeoff in Las Vegas.
- Carriers are not required to immediately report individual inspection findings to the FAA. They are required to capture the findings in their quarterly Continuing Analysis and Surveillance Systems (CASS), which they review internally and share quarterly with the FAA.