New questions for Allegiant Air, FAA after "60 Minutes" investigation

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for an investigation after Sunday's "60 Minutes" report raised questions about the FAA's oversight of budget carrier Allegiant Air.   

"60 Minutes" found between Jan. 1, 2016 and the end of Oct. 2017, more than 100 serious mechanical incidents, including mid-air engine failures and flight control malfunctions. Last July, Flight 533 experienced an engine issue on takeoff.  
 
"And there was smoke in the cabin and fire coming out of that engine," said Mercedes Weller, who was on board. "And I just remember thinking that I would never see my daughter again."

The "60 Minutes" report questioned the FAA's 2015 adoption of its "compliance philosophy," which aims to work with airlines to foster improved compliance and reporting of issues.

The FAA disputes the report and say it heightened its oversight of Allegiant that year. But as "60 Minutes" reported, when a near crash happened due to a missing component in 2015, the FAA investigator recommended strong enforcement and maximum fines. Instead, the agency closed the case and ignored the recommendations.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, saw the "60 Minutes" report and wants the Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General to investigate. "We want this out in the full light of day and we want the FAA to crack down to make sure the airlines — all of them — are safe," he said.

The FAA says it is committed to pursuing the highest level of safety and welcomes any outside review.

Allegiant also disputes the "60 Minutes" report, saying it complies with all FAA requirements. The airline has reported fewer mechanical incidents as it phases out its aging MD-80 aircraft.

  • Kris Van Cleave

    Kris Van Cleave was appointed CBS News Transportation Correspondent in September 2015 and is based in Washington, D.C.