More people flew and fewer commercial planes crashed than ever before, making 2017 literally the safest year on record for airline passengers since Wilbur and Orville Wright discovered the miracle of flight. And of course, President Trump had to take credit.
Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news - it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
Never mind the fact that the last time Trump had anything to do with the aviation industry he was slapping his name on an airline then sent it spiraling in a fiery nosedive down to bankruptcy, there are at least three problems with Trump’s high-flying aviation assertion.
First, it’s just not true. Trump claimed, “there were Zero deaths in 2017.” But according to To70, the Dutch company that compiled the statistics, there were “only two fatal accidents to passenger airliners, both involving small turbo-prop planes.” Those crashes resulted in 13 deaths, an amazing statistic, but nevertheless a number bigger than zero.
Second, aviation experts aren’t convinced increasing safety has anything to do with significant changes made by the Trump administration. Michael Sargent, a transportation policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, was “hard pressed to think of anything Trump has done differently.”
“The current track record is the culmination of decades of industry and FAA efforts to reduce crashes,” Sargent told me over the phone. “I think the stat Trump was talking about referred to global flights, and in the U.S., we haven’t had a major commercial crash since 2009. Obviously, he was not present for that entire duration.” (Then again, it could totally be “due to all of the white papers that I’ve published,” the Sargent added.)
Third, this one is a long shot even for Trump. It was a banner year for aviation worldwide, not just in American skies. Any regulatory changes that occurred under the Trump administration would apply to Delta and United, not rickety little international airlines like Lithuania’s Aviavilsa or Albania’s Albawings, or even more well-known ones like the infamous Malaysia Airlines.
In sum, Trump probably had about as much to do with keeping airplanes from falling out of the sky this year as that one passenger who still turns his phone on airplane mode during landing and takeoff. In short, not very much. Regardless, this lie will take flight and be halfway around the world by the time the truth even takes off.