FACT CHECK: Has Trump Been ‘Very Strict’ on Commercial Aviation?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

President Donald Trump took credit for aviation safety in 2017, claiming Tuesday that he has been “very strict” on commercial aviation.

“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!” Trump tweeted.

Verdict: False

Trump aims to roll back aviation regulations rather than create new safety standards. Zero commercial jet deaths took place in the U.S. for eight consecutive years.

Fact Check:

Trump has criticized the state of U.S. aviation since before he took office. He said LaGuardia airport in New York felt like a “third-world country” during a presidential debate and called a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) technology system “out of whack” in a meeting with airline executives. However, he did not make commercial aviation safety a major priority in 2017.

Trump said in a February meeting with aviation industry officials that he wanted to invest in airport infrastructure, lower the corporate tax rate and roll back aviation regulations to improve the industry’s efficiency and effectiveness. The meeting did not focus on ramping up safety regulation enforcement.

Commercial air travel in the U.S. was very safe before Trump took office. There has not been a commercial jet death in the U.S. since 2009, and there were zero commercial jet deaths worldwide in 2017.

The White House highlighted the administration’s plan to reform the FAA and tighten security in response to Trump’s tweet.

“President Trump has raised the bar for our nation’s aviation safety and security,” Raj Shah, principal deputy White House press secretary, wrote in an email statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “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.”

The Trump administration tightened some security practices for international flights, such as requiring electronics larger than a cell phone to be stored in checked baggage on U.S.-bound flights from many Middle Eastern and African countries.

Trump proposed eliminating three airport security programs in his budget. The administration argued security objectives could be achieved with those program cuts, though a former Transportation Security Administration official who spoke to The Washington Post disagreed.

Trump aims to roll back aviation regulations, but it is unclear whether safety standards would be impacted. “We’re going to get rid of a lot of unnecessary regulation, and we’re going to make their life a lot easier,” he said in the meeting with airline executives.

The administration announced a plan to privatize air-traffic control in June that would create a non-profit organization to manage air-traffic control overseen by airlines, unions and other aviation industry officials rather than the FAA. The plan stalled in the House, and a Senate committee rejected the privatization plan. The FAA currently operates under short-term authorization through March until Congress works out a long-term reauthorization.

The FAA is also simplifying certification requirements, shifting focus from aircraft design to performance to allow for innovation in aircraft. Those rule changes started during former President Barack Obama’s administration and continue under the Trump administration.

Trump wants to cut aviation safety funding in addition to changing rules. Rep. David Price of North Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, noted in a tweet Tuesday that Trump proposed a $40 million cut to the FAA aviation safety budget.

The FAA is still led by a holdover from the Obama administration, Michael Huerta. His five-year term expires at the end of this week. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Tuesday’s press briefing that the White House has no announcements on whether Trump will reappoint Huerta for a second term.

Huerta alluded to leaving office at the end of his term, in a speech in November. Trump has appointed a handful of other FAA officials in 2017, including Deputy Administrator Daniel Elwell.

The Trump administration did implement a new program to integrate drones into the national airspace system and enacted legislation requiring drone-users to register with the FAA.

The FAA directed all inquiries regarding Trump’s tweet to the White House.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter