President Trump took to Twitter to respond to the fallout over Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash, which has prompted at least 6 countries and more than 20 airlines to suspend operation of the Boeing 737 MAX series.
"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!"
Reality check: According to the Federal Aviation Administration, commercial aviation fatalities in the U.S. have decreased by 95 percent over the past 20 years as measured by fatalities per 100 million passengers. Since 2009, "U.S. airlines have transported about 8 billion passengers without a single fatal crash," per CNBC. Worldwide, there were 0 fatalities in commercial air travel in 2017.
- Trump himself tweeted in January 2018: "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!"
Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: Trump's tweet Tuesday expresses his discomfort over the idea that too much automation that takes away control from the pilots. A key focus of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines investigations is a Boeing software system that takes some control away from pilots in certain situations, but which may be activating at inappropriate times. However, neither the Boeing 737 MAX or other airliners are completely automated.