CLAIM: A Delta Airlines pilot who had recently been vaccinated for COVID-19 died mid-flight within the last 10 days, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.
THE FACTS: This false claim circulated widely on video-sharing websites, blogs and Instagram this week following a Monday segment on the conservative talk show “The Stew Peters Show.” Show guest Jane Ruby, a political pundit, said that she had heard about the incident from three whistleblowers.
“A pilot died in flight within the last, I’d say, 10 days, according to these sources,” Ruby said. “The flight had to make an emergency landing.”
Ruby added that the pilot was based at the Los Angeles International Airport and that staff on board “did land the plane safely.” She also said she had heard from one of the whistleblowers that the pilot had recently received his second COVID-19 vaccine dose.
But the claim is entirely false, Delta Airlines said in a statement addressing the topic on Wednesday.
“Delta is aware of reports suggesting one of the airline’s pilots passed away from vaccine complications while operating a flight, resulting in an emergency landing,” the statement read. “All of these allegations are false.”
The FAA also told the AP in an email it “has found no evidence such an event occurred.” Emergency landings or medical issues on commercial flights frequently appear in news articles, but an internet search turned up no news article matching any similar incident from October 1 to 11, 2021, the time period that the claim referenced.
A search on a website tracking global aviation-related incidents also turned up no emergency landing incidents involving Delta Airlines during this time period.
The media company that hosts “The Stew Peters Show” did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Peters or Ruby. The false story was one example of misinformation that surged online this week surrounding airline pilots and COVID-19 vaccinations.
When Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights last weekend, social media users made the unverified claim that it was because of employees protesting vaccine mandates. Southwest Airlines denied these claims, saying bad weather and air traffic control issues caused the disruptions.