News & Politics

President Trump Takes Credit for Zero Commercial Jet Deaths, No Hijackings, in 2017

Donald Trump points to the crowd after accepting the GOP nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday July 21, 2016. Behind Trump from left are daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, daughter in law Vanessa Trump, and son Donald Trump, Jr. (File Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump noted a report that there were zero commercial airline deaths on jets in 2017, and claimed he was partially responsible. The report about commercial deaths also found that there were no accidents related to “unlawful interference,” a.k.a. hijackings.

“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 president tweeted.

On Monday, Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 and the Aviation Safety Network reported that there were no commercial passenger airline jet deaths last year. In 2016, there were 16 accidents and 303 deaths.

“2017 was the safest year for aviation ever,” To70’s Adrian Young told Reuters. The Aviation Safety Network reported the same. According to the network, 2017 was “the safest year ever, both by the number of fatal accidents as well as in terms of fatalities.”

To70 estimated that the fatal accident rate for large commercial passenger flights is 0.06 per million flights, one fatal accident for every 16 million flights. The Aviation Safety Network also reported zero commercial airline jet passenger deaths last year. There were 10 fatal airliner accidents, leading to 44 deaths onboard and 35 deaths on the ground, however.

That figure includes two notable crashes, at the beginning and end of last year. In January, a Turkish cargo plane smashed into a village in Kyrgyzstan as it tried to land in dense fog. This accident killed 35 on the ground and four onboard. On December 31, a Nature Air Cessna 208B Grand Caravan aircraft crashed minutes after takeoff into a mountain off the beach town of Punta Islita, Costa Rica.

The Aviation Safety Network reported that airline deaths around the world have been steadily falling for decades. In 2005, there were 1,015 deaths aboard commercial passenger flights.

The last fatal commercial passenger airline crash took place in February 2009, when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed short of the runway in Clarence Center, New York, killing 49 onboard and one person on the ground.

Amid all this good news, To70 also reported that “there were no accidents in 2017 related to unlawful interference.” This suggests no hijackings took any lives, and perhaps no hijackings took place at all.

This may be the bigger victory President Trump could claim. After the September 11, 2001 attack, Americans have rightly feared airline hijackings by radical Islamic terrorists. Such hijackings would be even more deadly than the tragically common truck attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIS) in recent years.

The last notable airline hijacking took place in December 2016, when an Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 — Flight 209 from Sebha, Libya to Tripoli — was diverted to Malta International Airport with two men on board claiming to carry a hand grenade. They attempted to blow up the aircraft, but surrendered to authorities with no incident or loss of life.

This report suggests such terror hijackings might be a thing of the past, and if Trump is at least partially responsible for that, he would indeed go down in history as a victor in the war on terror.

Americans have paid a hefty price in secrecy and tough security at airports in order to achieve this victory, but zero commercial airline deaths and zero hijackings could be worth it. Then again, if there were no hijacking deaths in 2017, that suggests other countries were also successful in preventing such incidents — with less airline security.

Trump may rightly claim some credit, but if this is a worldwide victory, America’s efforts only tell part of the story. Even so, this is a tremendous accomplishment.