May 9 (UPI) -- Federal officials said Wednesday they would audit the Federal Aviation Administration's oversight of maintenance on Allegiant Air and American Airlines.
Matthew Hampton, assistant for aviation audits in the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Transportation, said in a memo his office has decided to adjust the scope of an ongoing FAA investigation into air carriers industrywide to FAA interactions with the two airlines.
"Our objectives now are to assess FAA's processes for investigating allegations of improper maintenance practices at two carriers, Allegiant Airlines and American Airlines," the memo said.
The decision came after analysis of FAA hotline complaints in the first phase of audit that began in June "in light of safety events and disclosures regarding airlines' maintenance practices," the memo said.
In particular, a CBS 60 Minutes report in April referred to the low-cost Allegiant airline based in Las Vegas as potentially "the most dangerous," based on mechanical issues. That report prompted four request letters from congressional committee leaders to focus on that airline.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, is one of the lawmakers who prompted the focus on Allegiant.
"The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant. Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences," Nelson wrote last month on Twitter. "That's why I'm calling on the Inspector General to investigate these incidences."
The decision to alter the scope of the probe comes amid growing concern over passenger safety on planes after Jennifer Riordan, a passenger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from New York City to Dallas, died from blunt-force trauma after a window broke on the plane.
Federal investigators said broken fragments of an engine cowling -- the protective cover that shields the engine compartment -- broke the window and forced the emergency landing.