COMMERCIAL air travel is getting safer. According to data released by the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), an online database, there were just five accidents involving civilian flights on aircraft with a capacity of 14 or more passengers in 2017, resulting in 31 deaths—the smallest figure since records began. And for the first time since 1957 there were no accidents or fatalities involving passenger jets (those who lost their lives in 2017 were all travelling in propeller-driven aircraft). By contrast, in 1972 there were 55 accidents in which more than 2,400 lives were lost. Passenger-jet accidents accounted for 60% of those deaths. 

The number of accidents per year has been steadily declining since 1997. The president of the ASN attributes this to safety measures put in place by international organisations such as the International Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a United Nations agency that deals with aviation safety. But America’s president, Donald Trump, has come up with a different explanation. ”Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation,” he tweeted on January 2nd, going on to assert that “there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!”. Can Mr Trump really claim all the credit for this? Hardly. The crash-free streak predates his term of office: no commercial jet operated by an American airline has suffered a fatal crash since 2009.