Trump claiming credit for air travel safety insults entire aviation industry

Trump claiming credit for air travel safety insults entire aviation industry
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While it is certainly common for presidents to take credit for every good thing that happens under their “watch”, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Esper: Military personnel could help treat coronavirus patients 'if push comes to shove' Schumer calls for military official to act as medical equipment czar MORE taking credit for zero commercial jet crash deaths in 2017 is a back-handed slap across the face of every safety professional in the entire commercial aviation community.

The 2017 world record has been coming for years and is not because any president has been “very strict on commercial aviation” for one year. The truth is that because of the devastating costs of a crash to the airline involved plus the crippling negative psychological impacts to the public, safety has become an existential factor in the economic viability of commercial aviation. Consequently, the worldwide industry has evolved a long standing, imbedded and overriding safety culture and infrastructure that are dedicated to ensuring and promoting the highest level of operational safety.


For example, following every commercial aircraft accident within United States jurisdiction, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducts an exhaustive investigation to determine probable cause. That investigation includes:


  • analyses of the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder to assess the cockpit conversations and sounds and to determine the operations of multiple flight controls and systems
  • examination of post crash damages to the aircraft exterior and interior which can include the full reconstruction of the aircraft
  • examinations and tests of the remains of the people who died in the accident assess the degree of fire and toxic fumes.

Every effort is made to find the probable cause of the accident because to not do so would undermine public faith in aviation, a potentially crippling blow to the industry.

The NTSB then makes recommendations to address the probable cause and sends them to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA reviews the recommendations for operational feasibility. This can include:

  • making changes to air traffic control procedures and flight operations procedures
  • generating new federal requirements on airlines, airports, and manufacturer
  • mandating changes to aircraft design or operating systems if the probable cause is a development and/or production flaw

If necessary, FAA will ground entire makes and models of aircraft until faulty designs and systems are corrected.

At the same time, the airlines perform the necessary retrofits and the manufacturers modify the design of the faulty parts and systems.

In other words, the entire aviation industry works feverishly to restore public confidence in aviation as an act of self-preservation. It is this cooperative and coordinated effort by government and industry, driven by a compulsive focus on achieving the highest level of safety that has achieved the 2017 record of safety for which President Trump takes credit.

It is this inherent safety culture that has evolved since the beginning of commercial aviation that has achieved zero commercial aircraft accidents in the United States since 2009. And BTW, a general political proclamation to support the privatization of the technological upgrade of ATC communications, navigation, and surveillance systems is not being “very strict on commercial aviation”.

The collection of regulations promulgated by the FAA to institutionalize the aircraft design requirements and operational procedures are the evolving foundation of aviation safety. As the administration rushes to overturn aviation “job killing” government regulations that protect consumers and passengers from airline “economic growth” fees and other economic malfeasance, we can only hope that the regulations that are intended to protect passengers from the horrors of being in an commercial aviation crash will not be so easily eliminated.

Stephen M. Alvania is a 34-year veteran of the Federal Aviation Administration. He is a former air traffic controller with experience in tower, approach control, and enroute ATC facilities. He also served as the FAA program manager for the development of advanced ATC and flow management automation capabilities.