I recently flew on Allegiant Air flight 408 which departed from Las Vegas Sunday, June 5th at 7:05am and arrived in Appleton, WI at 12:48.
We had an instrument issue on the tarmac in Vegas which required us to stop taxiing and troubleshoot. No mechanics were brought in; they were simply troubleshooting over the phone. The pilot stated they didn’t want to head back and wanted to troubleshoot on the tarmac in order to save time. During the time troubleshooting, the engines were shut off apparently in order to save fuel. I want to say it took an hour and then we took off. The pilot stated they were filling out a report. That’s really all the information I have and I wanted to see if there are online records detailing the issue.
It just made me very nervous knowing there was an issue and wanted to get more information on the actual issue. If anyone can point me to online resources detailing the issue, I would appreciate it.
It will be in the aircraft maintenance records, but why would you expect it to be publicly available? It sounds like it was a routine maintenance issue with no consequences other than a delay.
Perhaps the crew could have communicated better. But that’s always a difficult judgement call - with something arcane and technical, however much information you give, the majority of people will not understand, and may then feel that they need more explanation. Ultimately, it may just cause unnecessary distress. I understand your nervousness at the time, but as you reflect on it later, is this really any different from a minor problem that may have been spotted during a check a few hours before you boarded, and been easily fixed — something that you would never have known about at all? There are often delays for technical reasons prior to boarding, with no explanation generally provided.
Former airline, current charter pilot here, and I agree. I’m not aware of that sot of thing being made public.
And believe me, the pilots are not inclined to depart with something wrong, even if it’s as benign as obvious paperwork errors. I’ve had occasion to delay on the taxiway to fix that kind of thing, along with minor avionics issues or gauges that didn’t look right. But if it’s not cleared up to my (or the company’s and FAA’s) satisfaction, we’d go back to the gate.
If you took off, there was almost certainly no safety issue.
‘And of course by “almost certainly no safety issue”, I mean you had a 98.7% chance of dying horribly in searing pain as your plane plummeted from the sky. But it didn’t and you didn’t, so all is well.’
Hmmm… I was in Barcelona a few weeks ago. The 767 sat baking because Barcelona has a noise restriction against running the APU’s until 1/2 hour before take-off. Finally, they started the APU, plane cooled off, push back from the gate, go to start the engines - and the APU quit. Then they said they had to restart the avionics computers because of that. (My comment… “must be Windows”) 2 hours late getting going but nobody came into the cockpit that I saw to help with the computers.
I assume a lot of this support works fine by remote. Anyhow, we wouldn’t have plunged to a fiery death (almost no chance) since we were mostly over ocean.
I think that the only time in all of my flying that I got the “Full Story” for a maintenance problem was when the airline wasn’t at fault and it was clearly not life threatening. After fully boarding the airplane one of the bathrooms was noticed to not have been cleaned which was an OSHA violation toward the flight crew. So they hustled the cleaning crew back on, brought on some OSHA? representative to OK it and sign off that it had been addressed. The pilot told us fully what was going on.
The other time that I was told in full what was going on was during preboarding when the pilot noticed a presumed hail ding on the aircraft (from an incident a day or two earlier as I backtracked the plane’s routes while waiting). They pulled the plane for service and announced, " At United we are concerned about safety before all else and that is why we have decided to evaluate the plane more fully, yadda yadda."
So I have to agree that the pilot keeps any details to themselves unless it will not create any undo duress to anyone on board.
There won’t be any public information on the actual issue your crew faced. It could have been any number of mundane yet time consuming problems.
The typical process that occurs when something breaks is as follows:
Flight crew try and fix it. We are pretty much limited to turning it off and back on again. In some limited circumstances we may be permitted to pull and reset a circuit breaker.
If it is still broken and we have “dispatched”, i.e., taxied from the gate, then it is technically an “in flight” issue and if we considered it safe we could continue and have it fixed at the next port. However, it is prudent to refer to the MEL and company engineering as per below.
If it is still broken and we haven’t dispatched then we would consult the MEL (minimum equipment list) which is a list of things on the aircraft that are permitted to be unserviceable. If we have a broken thronomister the MEL will list the number of thronomisters fitted to the aircraft, how many may be unserviceable, and if there are any engineering or operating requirements for flying with an unserviceable thronomister.
In consultation with the company, engineering, and the MEL, we would make a decision as to whether to have it fixed, have the defect deferred in accordance with the MEL, or to cancel the flight.
Regardless of what happens at step 4, the defect needs to be “written up” in the maintenance log. The maintenance log is not a public document, it is simply a way of recording defects and the steps taken to rectify them.
Even for a very simple issue such as a failure of a thronomister where three thronomisters are fitted, only one is required for dispatch, and there are no engineering or operational requirements for flight with a broken thronomister, the process itself takes time and so 30 minutes can easily go by in order to come to a decision to depart with a mundane defect of no consequence.
My educated guess here is that there was an interruption to the electrical power when the APU failed which meant the avionics either restarted themselves or needed to be turned on again. Avionics go through a test process during start which can take some time. If the inertial reference units had to be restarted then they can take several minutes to align. Also if the flight plan had been dumped from the flight management system it would have to entered again. The more automated an aircraft is, the more that has to be entered in to the computers, flightplan, speeds, winds, weights, etc. It has to be entered and cross checked. A methodical crew would probably go back and re-do checklists to make sure they haven’t forgotten to set something up. It all takes time and is a normal process that is typically done before passengers are boarded rather than being an indication of a problem. There can also be additional issues related to the failed APU.
FWIW, Allegiant has been the subject of continuing concerns about its maintenance practices. The pilots’ union published an open letter to passengers stating “There is simply no reason why we — you or I — should accept flying an airline that is content with just barely meeting acceptable safety standards.”
It seems to me that it’s a good idea to have complete transparency in releasing every airline’s overall maintenance policies and statistics to the general public, in a standardized format that allows us to make like-for-like comparison between airlines. As a passenger, I’d like to know an airline’s overall history of reprimands and violations; I’d like to know if their maintenance policies exceed mandatory minimum standards, and if they have a record of sticking to those policies consistently, without putting pressure on crew to fly on schedule in marginal circumstances.
However, I don’t think that it makes sense to inform passengers of all the technical details of specific issues that may be affecting a particular flight. Most passengers cannot possibly understand the significance or safety implications of a specific issue. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and I don’t want my unnecessarily distressed fellow passengers making demands for more and more information from a flight crew who should be concentrating on fixing the problem to whatever extent they can, and then making the best judgement call about whether it’s safe to fly.
In other words: I want to know if an airline has good safety policies and a good record of adhering to those policies even when it costs them money. I will choose my airline accordingly, perhaps paying more for my ticket than the cheapest available. But having chosen, I’m not qualified to micromanage or second guess what they are doing, I have to trust them to get on with it.
My wife was traveling one time, and there was a “mechanical delay” while everyone was still inside the airport. As time drug on, the passengers started complaining about the delay. My wife started talking to a guy waiting beside her, who appeared calm. He said he was a pilot (not on this flight). He told her he was fine with the wait while they fixed whatever was wrong with the plane, because “I’d rather be down here wishing I was up there (pointing up at the sky), than up there wishing I was down here”. The missus is now very patient about flight delays.