Regulatory oversight of maintenance at US carriers American and Allegiant is being put under the microscope by the US Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General.
The OIG in 2017 announced that it would look at the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of airline maintenance after a review was sought by politicians.
The audit looked at whether the FAA considered factors such as mergers, rapid expansion and cost-cutting initiatives in its oversight of carrier maintenance.
The office initially planned to look at maintenance across the industry but said in a memorandum released Wednesday that it would concentrate on the two carriers it visited during initial audit work.
It said the initial audit had found the FAA had moved its oversight strategy from emphasizing enforcement to working with carriers to address the root causes of carrier’s failure to comply with safety regulations.
It also found airline maintenance programs were affected by differences in fleet mix.
Given these factors and an analysis of complaints to the FAA hotline about maintenance practices at American and Allegiant, it said the OIG had decided to “refocus” the next phase of the audit.
“Our objectives now are to assess FAA’s processes for investigating allegations of improper maintenance practices at two carriers, Allegiant Airlines and American Airlines,’’ it said.
“Specifically, we will (1) examine FAA’s independent reviews, complaints to the FAA hotline, and other sources to see whether inspectors conducting routine surveillance of Allegiant and American Airlines found similar discrepancies and (2) determine whether FAA ensures that Allegiant and American Airlines implement effective corrective actions to address the root causes of maintenance problems. “
American told CNBC it was shocked to learn of the review and that it stood by its strong safety record.
Allegiant said it welcomed any analysis of its operation and safety culture.
The US version of 60 Minutes in April claimed it had found more than 100 serious mechanical issues and suggested lax FAA oversight was involved. The airline and the FAA both denied the claim.