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Despite emergency landing in Buffalo, Spirit Airlines has decent safety record

Airline has never had a fatal crash
Posted at 2:56 PM, Sep 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-26 15:00:35-04

Spirit Airlines flies Western New Yorkers to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., twice a week, and next week its flights to the sunshine state from Niagara Falls International Airport will take off daily.

But Monday morning's flight was anything but routine. An engine burnout forced Flight 647 to make an emergency landing at Buffalo Niagara Airport just 10 minutes into the flight. 

So how often does this happen, and what is Spirit's overall safety record?

That's hard to determine because not even the Federal Aviation Administration ranks the "safest" airlines. Experts say not enough crashes occur for a scientific sample to be drawn. 

But the budget airline has a relatively decent safety record if evaluated by passenger fatalities. In 26 years of operation, it has never had a fatal plane crash.

However, a Spirit plane in 2013 flying in the Dallas/Fort Worth area had to make an emergency landing after losing one engine -- a similar scenario to what was reported in Niagara Falls on Monday.

In both cases, the plane was diverted and no one was hurt. 

Flight 647 was an Airbus 320, which is one of the most common -- and, statistically speaking, least dangerous -- airplanes. 

Two of the most famous flights -- the Miracle on the Hudson flight portrayed in the movie "Sully" and the tragic Germanwings flight that crashed into the French alps last year -- were also Airbus 320s.

7 Eyewitness News obtained the tail number and pulled flight records for the specific plane that emergency landed in Buffalo.

Records show the plane to be only 6 years old and its flying certificate doesn't expire for another 4 years. Planes often get 20 years or more of flying experience before they are phased out.

According to federal records, Spirit's flights out of Niagara Falls are on time 80 percent of the time. 

The displaced passengers from Monday's flight are expected to leave on a new flight on Tuesday, transit officials said.