Allegiant Air completes overhaul of slides; entire fleet back in operation

Allegiant Air announced Monday that it had completed the hurry-up overhaul of many of the emergency slides in its MD-80 aircraft, putting the entire fleet back in operation.

“We are back in business as usual,” said Allegiant spokesman Jessica Wheeler.

This meant it had 49 MD-80s ready to fly, with three others in a scheduled heavy maintenance mode known in the industry as a C check. In addition, Allegiant no longer charters aircraft from other companies to complete its schedule.

As a result, Allegiant, a unit of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co., did not face the problem of postponing dozens of flights to the next day like it did in the days after grounding more of its planes on Sept. 20 due to a flaw in maintenance procedures.

However, it still experienced numerous delays. According to flightstats.com, only two of 19 flights through 3:30 p.m. departed McCarran International Airport on time Monday. Delays on the others ranged from 21 minutes to four hours and 28 minutes.

The problems surfaced two weeks ago, when a smoke alarm went off on an MD-80 as it taxied to the runway at McCarran and prompted the pilot to order an emergency evacuation. One of the four chutes on the plane did not deploy properly, leading to a Federal Aviation Administration investigation.

The FAA discovered that Allegiant was sending the slides, which can be detached from a jet in about a half hour, for thorough overhauls once every three years. However, manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace changed its requirement to annual overhauls for the slides in 2007, but Allegiant never picked up on it. The notice covered only slides at least 15 years old, but that covers all of the MD-80s.

As a result, Allegiant was able to put only 14 of its MD-80s into service on Sept. 20, causing numerous delays and cancellations throughout the system and affecting thousands of passengers. Besides the MD-80, Allegiant flies three Airbus A319s and six Boeing 757s.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at 702-387-5290 or at toreiley@reviewjournal.com