The inspector general's office of the U.S. Department of Transportation has begun an audit into the FAA's oversight of maintenance at Allegiant Air and American Airlines.

The announcement comes less than a month after CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a scathing report that questioned Allegiant's safety record as well as the rigor of the FAA's oversight of the airline.

Technically, the audit is not a new one. Rather, the DOT said it is narrowing the scope of a broader audit of the FAA's oversight of air maintenance that it began in June of last year. That audit, wrote DOT assistant inspector general for aviation audits Matthew Hampton in a memo Wednesday, was undertaken at the behest of members of the House transportation committee.

Initial results of the audit had already led auditors to inform congressional staff in February that they would hone in on Allegiant and American, Hampton wrote.

He said auditors had found that the FAA shifted its oversight strategy from emphasizing enforcement to working with airlines to address the causes for noncompliance of maintenance requirements. Auditors also found that information sharing practices between air carriers and their FAA oversight offices vary considerably.

Under the new scope of the audit, DOT inspectors will assess the FAA's processes for investigating maintenance-related allegations against American and Allegiant.

"Specifically, we will examine FAA's independent reviews, complaints to the FAA hotline, and other sources to see whether inspectors conducting routine surveillance of Allegiant and American Airlines found similar discrepancies and determine whether FAA ensures that Allegiant and American Airlines implement effective corrective actions to address the root causes of maintenance problems," Hampton wrote.

An Allegiant spokeswoman said that the company welcomes the audit. "It will show what we know to be true, that Allegiant operates at the highest level of safety, in strict adherence with all FAA regulations and guidelines," she wrote in an email. 

In a statement, American said it flew more than 200 million passengers safely in 2017 on 2.2 million flights.

"American Airlines was shocked to learn of the Office of Inspector General’s review and we stand by our strong safety record. Our team is working to understand why we are part of its review," the company said. "We welcome all oversight from the federal agencies involved in ensuring the safety of the traveling public and are proud of our partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration."

The FAA also said it welcomes the inspection of its oversight system.

"This system is designed to identify potential risks before they become serious problems and ensure that corrective action is taken," the agency said in a statement. "The process is dynamic and requires that the FAA, and the airlines we oversee, constantly strive for safety improvements." 

Notably, FAA oversight of Southwest maintenance practices isn't within the scope of the tightened audit. The U.S. airline industry had its first fatality since 2009 last month when a Southwest passenger died after an engine fan blade broke loose and broke the aircraft window.

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