President Trump seems to be implying that him being strict on commercial aviation led to 2017 having been "the best and safest year on record". When reading carefully, he does not claim that outright; it's merely a juxtaposition of two claims.

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!

Donald J. Trump, 3:13 pm · 2 Jan 2018

I've asked about the second part; how about the first part?

Has president Donald J. Trump been "very strict" on commercial aviation?


Has Trump, or any member of Trump's administration, taken any action aimed to improve aviation safety?

  • 1
    Now the question is not notable. It's not what Trump is claiming. Beyond not being notable (nor answering the original question as posed), the second question posed is asking to prove a negative and the first is asking about motivation. What "being strict" means a mere opinion. One could think that deregulating aviation safety is "being strict" if their ideal is anarchy.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 15, 2018 at 9:05
  • 5
    @Sklivvz We are allowed to make reasonable interpretations of statements, even Trump's. No reasonable person would say that total deregulation was 'being strict', even if their ideal was anarchy Jan 15, 2018 at 14:25
  • 6
    @Sklivvz It's not stretching a point to take a reasonable, logical, interpretation of what a person says and look to see if that statement is true. We have already established that Trump's pronouncements are notable. Jan 15, 2018 at 15:38
  • 12
    Trump clearly claims that he has taken some action with regard to commercial aviation safety. Has any action been taken that relates to aviation safety, which could reasonably improve this, and which could reasonably be said to have originated with Trump or those close to him? This isn't rocket science, and can easily be checked. It may be there isn't a clear answer, but that is no reason not to ask the question. Jan 15, 2018 at 16:06
  • 2
    @Oddthinking I fully agree that "very strict" is hard to quantify. But why can't we start with "any action aimed to improve aviation safety" and "foregoing any action detrimental to aviation safety"? I can't possibly fathom what The Donald would think to be "very strict", but if he hasn't done anything at all, or has done something clearly detrimental, we could rule this claim as false, couldn't we?
    – SQB
    Jan 16, 2018 at 9:53

1 Answer 1


This answer is making use of Daniel R Hicks' links in the comments of the question.

The Claim

Donald Trump's tweet's phrasing "Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation." is, perhaps typically, not very precise. Asked about details, the White House released a statement quoted by factcheck.org:

“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,” said Raj Shah, principal deputy White House press secretary.

Actions from Trump's administration

The President's "initiative" is a proposal to privatize the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Control system. It has not been implemented.

The security measures from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are:

  • From March to July: restrictions on

    passengers carrying laptops in cabins on nine primarily Middle Eastern airlines to address the potential threat of hidden explosives.

  • Since June (or July, depending on sources):

    additional screening of passengers and their personal electronic devices at foreign airports with flights to the U.S.

The Chigaco Tribune also notes that the Trump administration didn't push forward a pending "important aviation safety regulation" proposed by the Obama White House about shipping lithium batteries.

Possible impact on flights safety

Privatization of air traffic control

The privatization of the Air Traffic Control system has not happened to this date, hence it is fair to say it had zero impact on flights' safety in 2017.

Whether this eventual privatization would enhance security is at least a very long shot. According to the Chigaco Tribune:

Supporters of privatization have been clear that the proposal is aimed at speeding air traffic modernization and is unrelated to safety.

Measures from DHS

The measures from DHS aim "to prevent terrorist attacks". They concern only the flights into the US from nine airlines. They do are safety measures, but one cannot prove whether they have or haven't deterred any intended terrorist attack on one of those flights. There sure has been no such attack in 2017, but neither has there been any during the past decades (even the attacks on 9/11/2001 hijacked domestic flights that would not have been in the scope of those measures).

Speculations aside, factcheck.org politely notes that

The White House didn’t provide any evidence that the DHS security changes had any effect on the level of airline accidents.

Reuters reports :

Current and former aviation safety officials said Trump was not responsible for last year’s unblemished commercial passenger jet safety record, citing years-long improvements in safety and the fact that no U.S. passenger airliner has had a fatal crash since 2009. Aviation Safety Network President Harro Ranter, whose group tracks aviation incidents, said in an email: ”It’s impossible to link the worldwide level of safety directly to recent U.S. policy changes.”

and concludes with Bryan Cranston's tweet adressed to Donald Trump:

“Your active participation monitoring the flight patterns and safety regulations was greatly appreciated. In 2018 could you please turn your efforts toward preventing wildfires and hurricanes?”

(maybe this tweet is out-of-scope, but I like the humour)

Summing up

Trump's administration policy about flights' safety cannot be considered as revolutionary. Whether the few measures taken by DHS in 2017 can be qualified as "very strict" is subjective, but they most probably had no noticeable impact on the excellent safety record of 2017 (no death worldwide) that continues a years-long trend of improving aviation's security.

The White House administration has not provided any proof of such an impact that could justify Donald Trump's bragging tweet.

  • The question specifically points out the fact that there wasn't a direct claim of causation (likely due the "impossibility" of linkage). The claims of "strict" action and no deaths were correct. Jan 15, 2020 at 0:09
  • PaulDraper: 1.Trump's tweet accolates a first sentence self-praising his action and a second sentence about flight safety in 2017. The implicit causation link is, well, implicit, but certainly voluntary. 2. If you can argue that the claim of very strict action is correct, you can put that in your own answer, but I will stand by my answer : such a statement is a very long shot.
    – Evargalo
    Jan 15, 2020 at 6:32

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