60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft has spent more than seven months investigating the safety record of Allegiant Air, and this week on the broadcast, he shares his findings.
Along with producers Michael Karzis and Vanessa Fica, Kroft found that between January 1, 2016 and the end of last October, Allegiant experienced more than 100 serious mechanical incidents, including aborted takeoffs, rapid descents, flight control malfunctions, and midair engine failures.
In a conversation with 60 Minutes Overtime's Ann Silvio, Kroft says he and his team felt a "sense of urgency" about the investigation and talks about one delay they encountered in the reporting process. The team tried to obtain mechanical interruption summary reports, logs of failures that cause delays or in-flight diversions, for eight airlines so they could analyze the differences among the airlines.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, Kroft and his team asked the Federal Aviation Administration for more than a year's worth of the reports for Allegiant and seven other airlines. They received the documents from every airline except Allegiant, which objected to their release.
Six days after interviewing FAA representative John Duncan, the executive director of flight standards, the FAA overruled Allegiant's objections and produced the reports. They showed that, for the period the 60 Minutes team compared, Allegiant was on average nearly three and a half times more likely to have a midair breakdown than Delta, United, American, Spirit, or JetBlue.
Though the FAA ultimately provided the report, Kroft says Duncan's interview was "stunning for the lack of information given up by the FAA."
"I think people will be concerned about the FAA and the FAA's response to Allegiant," he says.
In researching incidents on Allegiant, Kroft spoke with a number of passengers, including five he talked to on camera. Their responses range from being angry to traumatized -- a feeling Kroft knows after being involved in a plane crash himself. He was returning from covering President Reagan in Brazil, when the aircraft he was in clipped an instrument tower on takeoff. The impact damaged wing flaps on both sides and tore off the landing gear on the left side. The plane had to fly around to burn fuel before making an emergency crash landing.
"It does have an effect on you," Kroft says. "It was a long time before I was able to feel comfortable taking off ... It's a very traumatic experience."
While Allegiant has experienced frequent midair mishaps, Kroft notes that the airline has never had a fatal accident. Still, he found out that some of those who know of its safety record won't fly aboard its planes.
"Do you know anybody in the industry that flies Allegiant?" he asks Loretta Alkalay, a former lawyer for the FAA, in the video above.
"No," she replies. "No. And I know that a lot of people talk about how they don't fly Allegiant."
The video above was produced by Lisa Orlando, Brit McCandless Farmer, and Sarah Shafer Prediger. It was edited by Lisa Orlando and Sarah Shafer Prediger.