Thursday, February 04, 2016

Allegiant Air: Incident occurred February 03, 2016 at Lehigh Valley International Airport (KABE), Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

Allegiant's jet tire blowouts at LVIA don't require inquiry, federal board says

The blowouts of two tires on an Allegiant Air passenger jet arriving Wednesday at Lehigh Valley International Airport will not require an investigation, a federal transportation safety official said Thursday.

The Allegiant MD-80 jet carrying 152 passengers and a crew of six blew the tires under its left wing during its 5:46 p.m. landing on LVIA's wet runway, authorities said.

Coming in from Orlando, Fla., Flight 624 passengers felt two jolts from the blown tires, but officials said damage was minimal and no one was injured.

Terry Williams, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the Allegiant jet trouble Wednesday at LVIA was not significant enough to warrant a board inquiry.

"Our investigations are based on the amount of damage to the aircraft and injuries, that sort of thing," Williams said. "We're not doing anything with that incident that occurred yesterday. We are not investigating it."

Federal Aviation Administration officials might take a look at it, he said, but that was up to them. FAA officials did not comment Thursday.

An Allegiant Air spokeswoman said Thursday the jet's tires deflated moments after the plane touched down, and not the instant they hit the runway, as some early descriptions implied.

"The two tires on the aircraft left side deflated during roll out after the aircraft landed," Allegiant's Kim Schaefer said. "While the change may seem subtle, it is actually a very different scenario."

A passenger on the flight confirmed that the tires did not seem to pop the moment of touchdown, but briefly afterward.

"It wasn't exactly on touchdown," said the passenger, a Bethlehem man flying with his wife. "It was moments later. It was a big jolt. You heard the first tire go. And another jolt, you heard the second one go. We felt it and then we smelled it.

"Everybody was pretty calm," he said. "Nobody screamed, but everyone said right away, 'We blew a tire.'"

As the passengers smelled burnt rubber, a voice came over the cabin speakers to announce, "Obviously, we blew a tire. That's what that heavy smell is filing the cabin," the passenger recalled.

Before landing, each wing of the MC-80 jet extends a shock strut holding two tires. The nose gear also deploys its own two tires. On Wednesday, both tires blew out under the left wing.

Several passengers complained Thursday that the flight already was an hour late when it landed and, after the tire mishap, it took another hour or more for a bus to take many of them from the runway to the LVIA terminal.

Allegiant on Wednesday promised $100 vouchers – discounts for future flights – to passengers whose LVIA-to-Orlando Flight 625 later Wednesday was delayed by the tire problems of Flight 624.

On several online forums, passengers of Flight 624 asked why they also weren't offered $100 vouchers, considering they had the bumpy experience with the blown tires.

Shirley Tirpak, another Flight 624 passenger, on Thursday remembered noticing an odor of "burning brakes" when the plane was still on the runway at Orlando Sanford International Airport. She said she mentioned the smell to a friend on the plane.

Speaking for Allegiant, Schaefer said the airline saw no problem at Orlando.

"There were no indications of anything being wrong with the aircraft prior to departing [Orlando airport]," Schaeffer said. "Our maintenance team is still testing and examining the aircraft to determine the issue."

Allegiant's safety record has been under scrutiny recently. Steve Harfst, the airline's chief operating officer, resigned Jan. 15 after a series of emergency landings and mechanical problems.

The pilots union also has raised safety concerns. For more than a year, the company and pilots have been at odds over the safety and maintenance schedule for its planes.

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