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Allegiant COO resigns amid safety concerns



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Allegiant COO resigns amid safety concerns

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By Mary Carr Mayle

Steve Harfst, the chief operating officer for Allegiant Air, resigned Friday amid questions about maintenance and other safety issues at the low-cost airline during his year-long tenure.

While not giving a reason for the executive's abrupt departure, Allegiant said in a statement that it would "use this leadership change as an opportunity to refocus on operational needs and areas for improvement."

Harfst's resignation came only three days after the airline announced expanded service into Savannah, beginning in the spring, from Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Lexington, Ky.

In the past year, Allegiant has had a number of emergency landings because of mechanical issues, including five such incidents in the busy week between Christmas and New Year's.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor would only say his agency "is looking into these events."

Allegiant points to its exemplary safety record and disputes reports of inadequate maintenance.

Harfst had accused the pilots' union -- in bitter contract negotiations with the airline -- of drumming up unfounded concerns about safety as Allegiant continues its talks with the Teamsters and the National Mediation Board.

The pilots' union accuses Allegiant of cutting corners on maintenance and has asked for increased oversight from the FAA.

But the airline said its safety record is among the best in the industry, and it has programs in place to share data with the FAA.

"The FAA is tasked with overseeing all passenger airlines in the U.S., ensuring that strict safety standards are met," Allegiant spokeswoman Stephanie Pilecki said Tuesday. "FAA regulations and oversight are among the most stringent worldwide, and because of that, U.S. carriers make up one of the safest aviation systems in the world."

Allegiant, like most commercial carriers, is in nearly daily contact with FAA representatives, Pilecki said.

"The FAA oversees and approves the creation of all training materials, programs and certifications for pilots, flight attendants and maintenance personnel, as well as nearly every procedure, manual, process or operation related to flying and maintaining an aircraft," she said.

"Any suggested changes or updates must be developed and approved by the FAA. And any abnormal event is thoroughly reviewed, often in conjunction with the FAA.

"Allegiant participates in the voluntary FAA reporting programs, and has multiple programs in place -- including a Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System (CASS) and a Reliability Program -- to continually monitor and share data with the FAA regarding the overall health of the fleet," Pilecki said.

Commercial airlines are granted and are able to maintain operations certificates at the discretion of the FAA.

"At Allegiant, safety is our number one priority every day and we continue to have one of the best safety records of any passenger airline in the world," Pilecki said.



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50 N. Front St., Memphis TN  38103

901 528 1702    901 949 1144

Allegiant COO resigns amid safety concerns

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