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In Case You Had Any Doubts, No, Donald Trump is Not Responsible for “Zero Deaths” in Commercial Flights

An employee helps a passenger aircrafts of the Irish low-cost airline company Ryanair to park on the tarmac of the airport in Weeze, western Germany on December 22, 2017.
        Passengers travelling with Ryanair in Germany on December 22, saw little disruption from a four-hour strike called by a pilots' union, with most flights leaving as scheduled, and only some delays. Germany's powerful Cockpit union had asked Ryanair pilots to walk off the job from 5-9am (0400-0800 GMT) in a battle for recognition from the Irish no-frills carrier whose workers have been calling for better pay and conditions across Europe. But the first-ever strike action by Ryanair pilots in the company's 32-year history appeared to have made little impact, with no cancellations reported.
         / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Arnulf Stoffel / Germany OUT        (Photo credit should read ARNULF STOFFEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Arnulf Stoffel/Getty Images

In a report released on Monday, we learned that 2017 was the safest year on record for commercial aviation, with just two fatal accidents worldwide and none at all involving commercial jets.

This was great news, but the report, issued by a Dutch consulting firm that tracks crashes, attributed this “extraordinarily low accident rate” to a “case of good fortune.”

Regardless, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, decided to take credit for it.

Some context worth noting here:

• This record-safe year refers to aviation worldwide, not just the United States.

• While this was a historically good year worldwide, there was no change in U.S. airline fatalities. The last time a U.S. airline experienced a fatal crash was in 2009 when a Colgan Air jet crashed in New York. (A jet also crashed in San Francisco in 2013, but it was run by South Korea’s Asiana Airlines.)

• The U.K. has the best record of any country, according to the Independent. No British airlines have had a fatal crash since the 1980s.

It’s unclear what Trump means by being “very strict on Commercial Aviation.” Instead, it seems Trump is determined to loosen regulations. Trump has voiced a desire to make cuts to fight a “regulatory morass” in commercial aviation. An FAA panel recommended the agency eliminate or ease dozens of safety rules in response to Trump’s goal of cutting regulations (these changes were not implemented).

Trump has also supported a plan to remove 30,000 FAA workers from the federal payroll, pushing those jobs into the private sector and turning the agency into more of a regulatory oversight one. (According to the Washington Post, the idea is a divisive one in the airline industry and has union support. The move would likely hurt rural America, where infrastructure is not profitable, Slate’s Henry Grabar writes. It would also likely hurt general aviation—basically, everything apart from ticketed flights on large commercial airlines. The vast majority of fatalities come from this category of aviation.)

So, Trump’s claim is completely baseless. But it’s not the first time he’s claimed credit for something he had nothing to do with. He has previously lauded himself for a Ford investment plan that predated his election, job growth that had nothing to do with his policies, the invention of the term “fake news,” and people saying “Merry Christmas.”

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