Social Media Claim

“Bad ass” field flyover pilot selfie is fake

A Facebook post from September 23, 2018, shows a purported selfie of a fighter pilot with three other jets flying above a American football sporting field.

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from September 23, 2019 by an Australian user which shows a purported selfie of a fighter pilot with three other jets flying above an American football field with the words “Texas Aggies” written on the turf.

The caption above the image reads: “Without a doubt the most bad ass selfie ever taken!!!!! Leave it to our military.”

The post’s caption states: “The Military is showing the World we can ALL get along whilst protecting the World. World leaders from Australia and India were in attendance. Military Intelligence is in FULL CONTROL”.

The Facebook post has been shared more than 200 times and attracted more than 10 comments and 100 reactions.

The Texas A&M’s Association of Former Students claim the altered image was created by a person affiliated with the US Air Force Reserve's 457th Fighter Squadron of the 301st Fighter Wing.

The Analysis

The purported image of a fighter jet pilot taking the selfie reveals there is no protective canopy over the F-16 fighter jet. Although the canopy on F-16s are transparent, light reflecting on the shield should indicate there is a protective barrier for the pilot but nothing is shown in the photo. The edges around the three following F-16 jets also appear to be blurred.

According to Texas A&M’s Association of Former Students, the photo of the stadium was taken on November 26, 1999 during a Texas Aggies gridiron match by someone in a blimp.

The stadium in the photo is Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field which has been the home ground of the Texas Aggies gridiron team since 1905. In 2014-15, Kyle Field underwent an upgrade to expand its seating capacity to 102,733 making it “one of the five largest stadiums in American collegiate football”.

There was a flyover event on November 26, 1999 to remember students who were injured or killed in the Aggie bonfire collapse which occurred on November 18.

The Texas A&M’s Association of Former Students claim the altered image was created by a person affiliated with the US Air Force Reserve's 457th Fighter Squadron of the 301st Fighter Wing, based in Fort Worth to commemorate the flyover.

AAP FactCheck found the image has been in circulation since at least 2004.

The Facebook post’s caption claims “World leaders from Australia and India were in attendance.”

John Howard was Australia’s prime minister at the time. Mr Howard made a “working visit” to the United States once in 1999 from July 9 to 13, according to the Embassy of Australia. He was not in the US on November 26, 1999 when the gridiron match was played.

India’s leader in 1999 was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. According to the US Office of the Historian, Prime Minister Vajpayee did not visit the US in 1999. He visited the US on four occasions during his time in office - all after 2000.

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. The pilot taking the selfie does not have a protective canopy over his jet. The original image of Kyle Field was taken from a blimp in 1999 and did not feature fighter jets. The claim in the post’s caption that Australian and Indian leaders were present at the event is also false.

  • False - The primary claim of the content is factually inaccurate.

First published September 30, 2019, 13:29 AEST