WASHINGTON — President Trump claimed undue credit on Tuesday for keeping the skies safe.
“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!” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter.
Mr. Trump’s claim came on the heels of two reports that there were no fatal commercial passenger jet accidents in 2017; however, there were several fatal crashes involving smaller planes. The Aviation Safety Network said there were 10 fatal charter and cargo plane accidents last year, and To70, a Dutch aviation consulting firm, noted two fatal accidents on regional airliners in Angola and Russia.
“President Trump has raised the bar for our nation’s aviation safety and security,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said in a statement. Mr. Shah cited Mr. Trump’s push to privatize air traffic control and the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines for enhanced screening of passengers and electronics on flights bound for the United States.
A bill proposing air traffic control privatization has stalled in Congress, so it is implausible that it had any effect on airline safety — in the United States or anywhere else in the world. The last fatal accident in a passenger plane operated by a domestic airline was in 2009, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, when a commuter plane headed for Buffalo crashed, killing all 49 people on board.
The enhanced screenings were meant to deter terrorism, but fatalities on airlines in 2016 largely resulted from crashes, To70 reported.
Of the seven fatal accidents that occurred that year — on Somali, Nepalese, Emirati, Egyptian, Bolivian and Pakistani airlines — four were caused by bad weather or technical malfunction and one by a suicide bombing. Two are currently under investigation. None were bound for the United States.
Adrian Young, a consultant at To70, called last year’s rate “a case of good fortune” and noted that there is little statistical difference between two accidents and 10 accidents considering there are tens of millions of flights a year.
Harro Ranter, the chief executive of the Aviation Safety Network, said he was not surprised by last year’s lower numbers, given that the number of fatal accidents has consistently decreased over the past two decades.
“It’s impossible to link the worldwide level of safety directly to recent U.S. policy changes,” Mr. Ranter said. “U.S. efforts have been instrumental to get to where we are today, but it takes years for policy changes to reach effect, and only in conjunction with other efforts by the aviation industry.”
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