Since Russia intruded into Ukraine last week, hundreds of Indian students stranded in Ukraine could reach the borders of Romania and Hungary. The Indian government arranged special flights for students to bring them to India. According to a BBC Report, a C-17 Globemaster aircraft was deployed by the Indian air force from March 1 to bring back stranded students and citizens.
Amid this, an image from PlaneFinder, a service that tracks real-time flights based in the United Kingdom, has gone viral. A picture showing n number of flights and the trajectory of Air India flight number 121 (AI121) is viral with the claim that it showed the aircraft flying through a war zone to rescue stranded Indians in Ukraine.
The image was also used in a report by the Republic TV with a headline, "Air India Lone Airliner To Brave Through War-ridden Russia-Ukraine Airspace: Report". The report says that the Air India flight reportedly braved through the closed airspace of Ukraine amidst the Battle of Antonov Airport has emerged. When Ukrainian Armed Forces were shooting down six Russian aircraft, and An-225 was being captured (and re-captured) by Russia and Ukraine, Air India's flight to Frankfurt was the only airliner in the world powering through the chaos. Republic TV has now deleted the report.
A Facebook page called Anshul's Fan Gaurav Madhav with more than 9K followers also uploaded the image on February 27 with a caption that reads, "This single plane which is flying on sky of Russia Ukraine war zone is showing the power of new India. When no country has dare to fly there it is #AirIndia which is going to airlift Indian Nationals who are stuck there. This is new India under the able leadership of PM Narendra Modi ji. This single picture tells the whole story. वीरो भोग्या वसुंधरा।". The post has over 11K shares.
Amish Devgan, the Managing Editor of News18, also shared the image with a caption that reads, "This single picture tells the whole story. यह नया भारत है । जय हिंद ".
In addition to this viral image, Modi Once More, a Modi supporter Facebook page, also posted the photo with a caption that reads, "That's Air India rescue flight on its way... Modi Ji - I got Swag Mitron!"
Pramod Panday, TV Journalist of News Nation TV, also shared the image with a caption that reads, "The single plane which is flying on sky of Russia Ukraine war zone is showing the power of new India. When no country has dare to fly there it is #AirIndia which is going to airlift Indian Nationals who are stuck there".
Air India's single plane, which is flying in the sky of the Russia-Ukraine war zone, is showing the power of the new India.
The Logical Indian Fact Check team verified the claim and found it to be false. The viral image was first uploaded by a Twitter User who later stated that the flight tracking app had a glitch that was quickly fixed.
During our initial investigation, we found out that the image was first uploaded by a Twitter User called QuebecTango on February 24. It wasn't long before social media users began calling it a fake image and posted actual pictures of the route.
Using PathFinder, we verified that AI121's flight trajectory on February 24, 2022, did not match the viral image. Only one Air India flight can be seen flying in one direction in the viral photo while all others seem to be reversing direction. However, in the screenshot below taken on PlaneFinder from the same day and flight, the same cannot be seen. Taking a closer look at the flight's trajectory, it becomes apparent that the aircraft did not enter Ukraine air space but rather flew away from it, taking some other route.
We then searched whether an Air India aircraft was sent to Ukraine on February 24 to rescue citizens and discovered that AI 1947 was sent from Delhi but was called back once Ukraine declared they had closed their airspace for civil air traffic. According to a report by The Hindu, an Air India flight en route to Kyiv to bring back Indian citizens was forced to turn back mid-way on Thursday morning because Ukraine closed its airspace after Russian forces launched an attack on that country from three directions.
From the above investigation, it is evident that the image was fake. The tracking app had a glitch that was quickly fixed. The Air India aircraft was sent to Ukraine on February 24 to rescue citizens, and AI 1947 was sent from Delhi, but later it was called back once Ukraine declared that they had closed their airspace for civil air traffic. The above viral image is therefore fake.
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