Verify: President Trump unfairly credits himself for air safety

Sometimes Presidents have a case to make when taking credit for good news. This time? Not so much.

The President started the first business day of 2018 by finding new extremes for a presidential pastime: taking credit for good news, even if it's not entirely deserved.

But in this case, the President's claims about his role in securing safer skies for airline passengers - it's a really big stretch.


Loading ...

A 9NEWS project to make sure what you've heard is true, accurate, justified. Want us to verify something for you? Email


The President claimed in a tweet:

"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!"


The claim about air safety needs a lot more context because it's not the achievement the president would have you believe.

It's true that two new reports out Tuesday show that last year was the safest on record in commercial air travel worldwide.

It's a bridge too far for the U.S. president to take credit for the safety the whole planet's air travel. It's not like he'd deserve the blame if air traffic control in another country made a deadly mistake.

So let's drill down on U.S. air travel.

The President is correct that we had zero deaths in commercial airline accidents in 2017. He's also correct that this number is a record low.

It's also mathematically impossible to beat.

But it's not a new record - it's a tie with many years before.

We haven't had a fatal U.S. airline accident since February 2009, within the first month of the Obama presidency.

In fact, the United States had zero fatal airline accidents in 14 of the last 20 years. The other six years only had one accident apiece. (We aren't counting the 9-11 attacks because they were not accidental.)

The point here is that zero deaths, thankfully, isn't groundbreaking territory.

But what about the other part of the tweet? "Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation."

This implies the president's made big changes to air safety, which is misleading.

Loading ...

The Trump administration's Department of Transportation, which houses the FAA, reported only two regulation changes last year. As first noted by The Atlantic, neither has anything to do with air travel.

The administration did push to privatize Air Traffic Control, but that idea never left the gate in Congress.

It's also worth noting that Michael Huerta and Dan Elwell, the top two ranking officials at the FAA, were both appointed by President Barack Obama. President Trump did not name replacements for them in 2017.


Sometimes Presidents have a case to make when taking credit for good news.

This time? Not so much.