President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to claim that his policies in his first year in the White House resulted in the commercial aviation industry posting its safest year ever in 2017 — though the U.S. had gone years without a U.S. commercial airline fatality before he took office.
“Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!”
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Trump was referring to reports that 2017 marked the safest year in global commercial aviation ever, with no passenger jet fatalities recorded. But, as Reuters reported, there were fatalities in accidents involving turboprop airplanes and cargo aircraft.
Still, the U.S. has gone years without a U.S. commercial airline fatality. There has not been an accidental death on a domestic commercial airline since February 2009, when a Colgan Air flight crashed into a house near Buffalo, N.Y., killing 49 people on board and one person on the ground.
A passenger flight under a foreign carrier, Asiana Airlines, crashed upon landing in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three. And a month later, a cargo plane — which operates under the same rules as commercial flights — piloted for UPS crashed on approach to a runway in Birmingham, Ala., killing both pilots.
Congress hasn’t directed any new aviation policy since mid-2016, when it last passed an FAA bill containing new provisions responding to the San Francisco, Buffalo and other crashes.
Still, principal deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement that Trump “has raised the bar for our nation’s aviation safety and security.”
“Last year, the president announced his initiative to modernize air traffic control and under his leadership, the Department of Homeland Security released enhanced security measures to ensure safer commercial air travel,” Shah said. “The president is pleased there were no commercial airline deaths in 2017, and hopes this remains consistent in 2018 and beyond.”
The Trump administration has endorsed the idea of splitting air traffic control operations from the FAA, contending that putting a nongovernmental, nonprofit body in charge would boost safety. But legislation to overhaul the system has so far failed to reach the House floor or be considered in the Senate at all.
Former President Barack Obama appointee Michael Huerta has been at the helm of the FAA since 2011.
In regards to Trump’s “enhanced security measures,” DHS issued a directive in June requiring security updates at last-point-of-departure airports for U.S.-bound flights, including increased use of explosive trace detection equipment and bomb-sniffing dog teams. The department opted for the global aviation security enhancement directive instead of expanding a ban on carrying large portable electronics in-cabin. DHS lifted the electronics ban for the 10 mostly Middle Eastern countries affected after the security directive went into effect.
Stephanie Beasley contributed to this report.