Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke June 7, 2021

This isn’t a photo of an “Angel Flight” bringing dead service members home

If Your Time is short

  • The U.S. Defense Department says this is false.
  • U.S. military aircraft don’t shoot flares unless it’s for a defensive maneuver. 
  • “Angel Flight” isn’t an official military term.

An image of what looks like a plane shooting flares mid-flight so that it appears adorned with angel’s wings is again being shared on social media with old misinformation. 

"This is the plane that brings our dead military home," one Facebook post says. "It is made so that when they shoot their salute for their service it looks like an angel carrying them home. Their call sign is angel flight and they have priority in US air space." 

Featured Fact-check

But this is wrong. 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

(Screenshot from Facebook)
We reached out to the U.S. Defense Department about the post. A public affairs duty officer told PolitiFact that flares aren't used on U.S. military aircraft to return fallen service members. 
"They are only used for defensive maneuvers," the officer said in an email. And "Angel Flight" isn’t an official military term. 
Fallen military members are returned from overseas to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware "by the most expedient means possible," according to Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations
In 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported that employees of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command "function as the nation’s pallbearers, ferrying flag-draped remains" to the base. The Pentagon employs four companies, including UPS and Federal Express, to help bring bodies back to Dover, the newspaper said. Some of the dead are flown back on civilian planes while others are returned via military aircraft. 
We couldn’t identify the plane in the Facebook post, but the claim isn’t a new one. Snopes looked into a similar post back in 2017. Then, the fact-checking site reported that it appears to be a Russian Ilyushin Il-76.
We rate this post False.

Our Sources

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Ciara O'Rourke

This isn’t a photo of an “Angel Flight” bringing dead service members home

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up