The claim: COVID-19 vaccinated American Airlines pilots died during flightsAs air travel across the U.S. faces a spike in unruly passengers, aircrew understaffing and flight cancellations, one article circulating on social media takes it a large step further by claiming vaccinated airline pilots are dying while on duty.
“Vaccinated Pilots Dropping Dead Mid-Flight,” reads the headline of an article shared to Facebook on Oct. 28.
The article, published on a website called bestnewshere.com, claims that two American Airlines’ pilots died in October during separate flights leaving Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. One pilot is described as dying from cardiac arrest during an Oct. 15 flight bound for Fort Meyers, Fla. The other, a co-pilot on a flight to Los Angeles, died from “acute myocarditis,” an inflammation of the heart muscle, the article claims.
The article asserts both pilots had been vaccinated a few weeks before their flights and that there have been “at least 12 non-fatal incidents involving pilots that had recently received the jab.”
However, none of this is true, said American Airlines spokesperson Whitney Zastrow in an email to USA TODAY.
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That’s because the article is fabricated, originating from a website that regularly publishes fantastical, false stories.
USA TODAY was unable to reach bestnewshere.com for comment.
Article originated from fake news websiteThe article is a repost of an Oct. 27 article published on another website called Real Raw News, which is attributed as the source for the information within the story.
Despite the seemingly authentic headlines and reporting, the website has a disclaimer saying otherwise.
“Information on this website is for informational and educational and entertainment purposes,” reads the disclaimer found on Real Raw News’ “About Us” page. “This website contains humor, parody, and satire.”
USA TODAY has reached out to Real Raw News for comment.
This is not the first time a rumor claiming a pilot died while flying spread on social media.
In October, a video of a right-wing political pundit claiming a Delta Airlines pilot died during a flight went viral on social media. Delta told USA TODAY the claim was baseless, and the Federal Aviation Administration said there was no evidence the incident described in the video occurred.
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The FAA similarly told USA TODAY there have been no events related to what’s described in the Real Raw News story.
“The FAA has seen no evidence of aircraft accidents or pilot incapacitation caused by pilots suffering medical complications associated with COVID-19 vaccines,” said agency spokesperson Eva Lee Ngai.
Our rating: FalseBased on our research, we rate FALSE the claim COVID-19 vaccinated American Airlines pilots died during flights. The article making the claim originates from a website that creates false news stories. Both American Airlines and the FAA have said there is no evidence the incidences occurred.
Our fact-check sources:USA TODAY, Sept. 24, ‘Anxious, fearful’ flight attendants plead for Congress’ help to deal with air rage USA TODAY, Oct. 15, U.S. airlines are grounded by understaffing, fatigue and raising violence despite billions in aid USA TODAY, Nov. 1, American Airlines cancels, delays more than 1,400 Sunday flights due to weather, ‘tight’ staffingReal Raw News, Oct. 27, Vaccinated Pilots Dropping Dead Mid-Flight (archived)Real Raw News, accessed Nov. 1, About Us (archived)USA TODAY, Oct. 13, Fact check: Delta debunks rumor that vaccinated pilot died mid-flight Whitney Zastrow, Nov. 1, Email exchange with USA TODAYEva Lee Ngai, Nov. 1, Email exchange with USA TODAYThank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.