What President Trump Has To Say About Airline Safety

Filed Under: Misc.

Over the past 48 hours we’ve seen a growing number of countries and airlines ground the 737 MAX. At this point the US and Canada are exceptions in not having announced any sort of grounding of the aircraft type.

The FAA has issued a continued airworthiness notice for the plane, and noted that they won’t take action based on what we know now, and that’s about the only official government commentary we’ve had.

Well, just now President Trump took to Twitter to chime in:

Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!

Trump is essentially saying that he thinks it’s a bad thing how automated planes have become. Fair enough.

I do think it’s interesting to note his Tweet from early 2018, where he stated the following:

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!

As he explained, him “being very strict on Commercial Aviation” contributed to it being the safest year on record for aviation.

I don’t want to overanalyze here, but it sure seems to me like he’s suggesting at this point aviation isn’t as safe as it could be due to over-automation, and he has also said he is very strict on commercial aviation.

Could we see Trump take action here? Is this an area in which he could issue a national emergency? For the record, this is a genuine question… I’m not trolling.

  1. Going to venture to say that this tweet is in preparation of the FAA announcing this afternoon the grounding of the MAX. Too much coincidence and came just a few minutes after the U.K. made the announcement.

    They all know something. Something they are not telling us yet.

  2. I for one have been impressed with the bloggers coverage of this issue and with them taking the stance of being concerned and what to do if you’re scheduled on the max 8.

    There is obviously something faulty with these planes. I wouldn’t be caught on one. Even a lead CNN contributor said they wouldn’t either. If highly competent and capable pilots can’t control these planes (2 crashes in 6 months on planes under 6 months old), I sure as heck wouldn’t be caught on one.

    Doesn’t surprise me the US is lagging here. Our agencies are often slower to make judgements which might be viewed as rash. I do suspect the US to ground the max shortly.

    Who cares what Trump thinks.

  3. I hope that now that the UK has also grounded the 737 Max I think this will be a turning point and the pressure to ground them in North America will become stronger. Safety must come ahead of shareholders and profit or politics.

  4. He’s right on the fact that we are becoming too dependent on everything being automated. Weren’t there talks of planes basically taking off and landing themselves not so long ago? The Lion air crash was deemed due to faulty Angle of Attack sensor automatically pushed the nose down…and the pilots couldn’t fight it? There has to be a better way.

    History of airline accidents shows incidents due to pilot errors and mechanical errors.. There is no doubt automation and computers makes flying more efficient and safer.. but they are not fail proof… With all the push for self driving cars, I would hope that the driver can override whatever the car is doing in case of a problem.

    Not every pilot is going to be Sully but I prefer having competent and experience pilots with more/better training that can override system failures.

  5. What incentives would an FAA official have to keep flying them? They should know that if a 737 Max crashes in their jurisdiction at this point, they’re toast. They won’t lose their job for causing some hiccups in aircraft utilization.

  6. Lucky is just reporting the news, he’s not even taking a political stance, he provides commentary from the avgeek perspective, yet people here in the comments are swift to start arguing nonsense. Take your anger elsewhere, to the appropriate places.

  7. FAA a day later to reverse course with no new evidence….hard to believe it happens. They should have already grounded them. US is no a longer a leader in anything, no wonder the world sees us as a joke. Everyone in England asks me if I am Canadian as they don’t want to offend me.

  8. Look, I’m a supporter of President Trump, but I go to this blog to forget about the constant reporting of politics on Fox and CNN.

    This is an airline blog, and this post is airline related- so going on and talking about politics and your dissatisfaction of the president in the comments is not something that’ll make you look smart and it doesn’t portray the blog well.

    This article is completely unbiased and Lucky wrote it very well.

  9. He’s absolutely right! Anyone in a responsible position needs to be adept at what they’re doing. We need experts in charge of their respective professions – whether it’s planes, bridge building, countries… rather than having a “loose nut behind the wheel”, so to speak.

  10. Great and fair comments by a great leader.

    Please delete comment above if you can 🙂 Wrong name was cached in browser. Can edit these last three sentences out too.

  11. Yet his administration strongly supports driverless automated vehicles… Of course, count on Trump to have a coherent policy.

  12. Us pilots are now trained how to over ride the automated nose down, once they found out it is a new “feature”.from Boeing. My guess is that this very new specific training isn’t enforced or known by the Asian pilots. Multiple us pilot interviews suggest the same.

  13. He’s got a point, but imo automatisation systems m has no doubt helped prevent many crashes (actively) in the aviation industry. It’s just a question of making sure that said systems are tested and refined to prevent catastrophic errors from happening. Pretty sure humans are more prone to mistakes than computers

  14. Germany just closed their airspace for the MAX. I guess the whole of EU will follow with UK and Germany doing it.

  15. He is right to a degree and I’m against him in every sense of the word. That said I would respect him for finally doing something after 20 countries have grounded the damn plane. Boeing just threw the FAA under the bus for not grounded them all together. Politics or not, Trump has an easy win here. Any conservative who would cry overreach will instantly support him. Democrats have been crying for it for a day now.

  16. Great comments by a great leader? Sweet Christmas trump supporters sound like Kim Jong Un followers.

  17. Yes, Trump is a great leader who believes that important tasks should be done manually, like hand jobs in Asian brothels disguised as spas owned by Chinese entrepreneurs who sell access to a president who is more than willing to compromise the country’s security in exchange for personal profit.

  18. I don’t give much thought to Trump’s tweets as most of the time they don’t make sense or are very biased towards his selfish choices.

    But today I am inclined towards his thought process on too much automation of anything specifically planes is not good. He has talked sense and has stuck his neck out here considering Boeing is an US company the repurcussions are going to be huge as and when FAA grounds the MAX 8.

    It’s the most popular selling model for Boeing with over 5000 orders. Many airlines are reconsidering the orders now. Lion Air has already cancelled the order.

    When someone puts safety over profit it should be applauded.

  19. I think the best way for FAA and Boeing to show everyone that 737-8MAX is safe to fly in is to get President Trump to fly in one as a passenger!

  20. @Ben (Lucky) please delete the above post by @Debit. It is highly offensive and threatening.

    Thank you.

  21. This transcends politics. Similar to vaccines. Hopefully we do the right thing after 30 other countries ground the plane. Canada is considering it as we speak. If they do it, he is going to follow suit. Better to do it before they do.

  22. @ Ben — Surely, Donald Trump knows more about flying an airplane than anyone. Hopefully they order these as the new Air Force One and put them into service ASAP.

  23. Merica ! TRUMP 2020. If you fly American , Delta , or United and drive a Ford or Chevy you’re a good American. If you drive a Honda and fly Emirates you’re a terrorist. If it ain’t Boeing I ain’t going. We need to watch out for them foreign made planes like bombardiers and Embraers. Merica !

  24. Blaming automation is a bit too simple. Automation has hugely contributed to aviation accidents declining every year, despite the fact that air traffic is growing. The vast majority of accidents are caused by pilot error, and automated systems prevent that more and more. Now automation might have caused two crashes, but over the years it has literally prevented dozens, if not hundreds of crashes. The errors in the systems need to be found and fixed, but concluding that we need to roll back automation and go back to manual flying is nonsense.

  25. Its unfortunatte that so called “president” Dunce has a twitter platform at alll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    He shouldd shut up and close his eyes and injoy his dementia until his heart explaodes from all his hate!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!

  26. ‘@Ben (Lucky) please delete the above post by @Debit. It is highly offensive and threatening.

    Thank you.”‘

    AW POOR SNOWFLAKE!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!

  27. @J Mark my words President Trump will be re-elected so that will be until January 2025! I hope he does say something about grounding the Max Jets.

  28. I don’t mind airplanes becoming too complex. Pilot training is able to catch up quickly. My problem: the planes are becoming too complex for agencies who are in charge if something happens, like the FAA in the US. Only Boeing is able to analyze all data correctly and they will always blame “unlucky coincedence” if an airliner crashes. That is the real problem here…

  29. If Trump knows more than the Generals, then he certainly knows more about aviation than some MIT scientist. You’re fired!

  30. GO TRUMP!!!!
    your all haters!!!

    anything that comes out of his mouth even the truth is automatically DEAD ON ARRIVAL!!!!

  31. @Debit makes such intelligent statements. Sounds like he just graduated from grade school (maybe).
    Too bad he lacks imagination to vary the only comment he knows!
    Talk about dimbasses!!!!!

  32. Why are these pointless comments from an idiot with no aviation or computer experience whatsoever being re-aired in a blog that normally covers interesting topics?

  33. I find it interesting that the US seems to be taking a strict “wait and see” approach, but a lot of other countries and carriers have decided to ground the plane, atleast temporarily.

    Now, I don’t know how much of that is due to just an abundance of precaution and/or pressure from the public. But I feel like the FAA/Boeing aren’t taking it as seriously?

    At least, that’s the impression I get. It makes me uneasy. I tend to agree with the President that since we have had a stellar record in recent years, cockpit technology is a case where we shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken or what has been working.

  34. @Juno

    I stopped reading after “I’m a supporter of President Trump…”, so thanks for opening with that and saving me 45 seconds.

  35. The man literally said on live TV “I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things”. Yeah, sorry, but I wouldn’t trust him to offer opinions on children’s issues, let along airline safety

  36. And it’s official European Aviation Safety Agency grounds the entire EU. So what is that 40 countries before the USA. We’re #41! Our new motto?

  37. Lucky is posting comments made by the president of the USA regarding aviation on an avaiation blog. Not sure why this is being seen as unnecessary- could have major implications for one of the largest businesses in USA and the world.

    Btw, the blind hatred for trump led to the new progressive nut jobs like AOC. Hiding your head in the sand and dreaming about impeachment muller, and even trump going to jail (for what again?) is leading to a trump re election in 2020

    Saying “ no one likes him anyway”. Is the exact sentiment that will keep him your president till 2024

  38. Bizarrely, I sort of agree with Trump on this. I’m not a pilot so can’t base my thoughts on that, but I can base it off automation as a vehicle driver. While like most in the US, I have an automatic gearbox, power steering, and cruise control, I’m glad I don’t have any other technology in my car. Anytime I drive a rental with something like Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility and play around with it, I hate it. I think it is simply automation for lazy and/or stupid people. I only even use cruise control about 20% of the time I drive my own car. So my point here is that basically aircraft automation makes it a lot easier for pilots to be lazy and rely on technology or to allow for less intelligent people to become pilots. Ironically, Trump is sort of saying we don’t want people like his average supporter to be able to become pilots 😉

  39. I have a theory that “@Debit” is actually @Ben/@Lucky either trolling us or saying what’s really on his mind! 😀

  40. I wish we had leaders like him in Europe.
    Common sense, hard working and ambitious patriots.

  41. Buried somewhere deep in Trump’s big helping of word salad there may be a bit of a point, that manufacturers may be getting too reliant on automation and not letting pilots be able to take full manual control of an aircraft when there’s a possibility of false information going into the computers.

    I remember Lufthansa pilots complaining in the past about Airbus products because there wasn’t a way to completely disengage the electronic second-guessing.

    But the idea that the Trump Administration has anything at all to do with the current state of safety in the US aviation industry is insane, unless he’s taking credit for not slashing the FAA and NTSB’s budget to pay for his bloody wall (which would be like saying “I’m a kind man because I didn’t shoot you today…”)

  42. @CraigTPA

    You know exactly how Trump operates. If its something good, he will find a way to try and take credit for it, whether its aviation safety, an increase in stock market, etc. But the moment its something negative, he publicly blames it on someone or something else. Truman put up a placard on the Oval Office desk saying “The Buck Stops Here”, as in, the president takes ultimate responsibility, whether good or bad. Trump is too cowardly to ever take responsibility for the bad and will only jump in to claim the good, whether justified or not.

  43. @AlanD – (quote)

    “So my point here is that basically aircraft automation makes it a lot easier for pilots to be lazy and rely on technology or to allow for less intelligent people to become pilots. Ironically, Trump is sort of saying we don’t want people like his average supporter to be able to become pilots “

    You are exactly the reason I voted for President Trump. Keep it up. More people will show up to support our president in 2020 the more you insult trump supporters.

    I am a board certified Interventional Cardiologist so I consider myself “slightly” educated and capable of making a reasoned and coherent decision. I’m sorry you are unable to make a decision without Anderson coopers input.

  44. @Dennis: Funny that you say that, this is exactly what I have been suspecting for a long time! Debit is Ben‘s alter ego.

  45. You benefit from EVERY READER, Correct? You might think about that before you assume that anyone who would read your article would agree with your political persuasions, because obviously, we do not always agree. You reveal your true purpose of the article in the closing. I just ask you to remember that when OMAAT brought you on board, they TOLD US, it was because of your travel expertise…. Keep it to THAT, Ben.
    Feel free, however, to blog away about your political opinion in a blog that you PUBLISH as a political publication and don’t sneak in your opinion about politics in a blog I signed up to learn about travel opinions. Thanks for listening!

  46. I know who Debit is but I won’t put him on blast. Funny people think it’s Ben Lucky though.

  47. @Juno,

    You hit the problem right on the head (I know, many many posts above). The problem, with so much automation, is that the pilots who should and must override the computer when it goofs end up not knowing how to anymore, simply because it happens so seldom.

    Examples: I used to perfectly read maps, glancing on my lap while driving. Since the generalization of GPS, I can’t even read one easily in my living room. Also, I used to know by memory 300 phone numbers. With directories built inside cellphones and other tablets, I can hardly remember any beyond my own 3.

    Sadly, automation makes humans , maybe not idiots (or maybe), but far less responsive and especially far less quickly when it is needed.

  48. Not sure you are not trolling, Sir Ben.

    What the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) or Boeing have to say is topical. Opinions from political leaders are less mportant in this blog.

    I hear the re-design of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) has been outsourced to Huawei, but I’m not trolling…


  49. @Alonzo
    Nobody likes him, you say. Well, if you say so. The big problem with your statement is that the 62,979,636 Americans that voted for him don’t exactly qualify as “nobody.” I guess your math teachers really sucked, or you simply didn’t complete your Special Ed diploma.

  50. @Jesse – but how many of those people voted for Trump not because they were ardent supporters of Trump but just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton?

  51. Ironically the Presidents comments were directed at the 737, the modern commercial aircraft least complex to fly and with a control layout which still very closely mirrors the 1967 original. Also, weirdly, the main automation updates to modern aircraft came in the 1980s when flight management computers and auto-throttles augmented the previous electro-mechanical auto pilots. Changes since then have been incremental, and all positive for safety. Had he been speaking about an airbus in 1988 he might have made some sort of sense.

  52. Putting politics aside (although I thought Lucky handled that aspect of the story quite well), I think Trump’s bizarre-seeming “computer” tweet is an indication that on March 11 or 12 he was briefed on the info surrounding the MAX’s MCAS system. (I.e. everything that’s been trickling out in the past 5 days.) What else could that tweet possibly be a response to?

    I find this highly disturbing, not because of Trump’s tweet itself, but because it suggests that the FAA knew what was going on with these planes before they grounded them. Eek.

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