Fact Check: An Afghan Man Did NOT Ride On Airplane's Engine - It Was Photoshopped

Fact Check

  • by: Marlo Lee
Fact Check: An Afghan Man Did NOT Ride On Airplane's Engine - It Was Photoshopped Special FX

Did an Afghan man clamber onto a departing jet and ride atop its engine to escape the Taliban? No, that's not true: A Vietnamese man who produces trick photos did the video as a prank. Also, a spokesperson for an airplane manufacturing company told Lead Stories this was "totally impossible."

The claim appeared in an Instagram post (archived here) published on August 17, 2021. It opened:

Oh Hell Naw 🤦🏽‍♂️Footage hits the net showing an Afghan going to desperate lengths to get away from the Taliban

Here is what the Instagram post looked like at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2021-08-18 at 1.18.22 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed August 18 18:18:21 2021 UTC)

Google reverse image search of a screenshot of the video showed renditions of the meme on other accounts. A Yandex reverse image search led us to Pinterest, where we found a screenshot of a man sitting on the engine of an airplane with a table waving to the ground below.

On the Pinterest screenshot was a watermark that read "Cre: Huy quân hoa." A Google search of this name led us to a Vietnamese graphic designer who goes by Huy Quân Hoa/Huy Xuân Mai. Using those names, we found his Facebook pages, one for each name. Mai uses the word photoshop in his Facebook bio, which is mostly in Vietnamese. Hoa's Facebook bio does not mention photoshop. We translated the bio on the Mai account with Google Translate. It's roughly translated to "Collage, teach photoshop, work contact Zalo." Zalo is a messaging app, according to the Google Play store.

On August 17, 2020, the video seen on the Instagram post was posted on the Mai Facebook account and the Hoa Facebook account. It was also posted on Mai's TikTok account the same day.

Lead Stories emailed Airbus, an airplane manufacturing company, on August 20, 2021, for further explanation as to why a person couldn't ride on the outside of a jet. A spokesperson responded the same day:

Totally impossible. To answer your specific questions, the temperature on the outside of a jet engine in that location would not be particularly hot. In fact, the air temperature would be cold, especially at eventual cruise altitude. In any event, no ... a person could not hold onto an engine cowling in flight.

Lead Stories reached out to Mai about the video and will update if he responds.

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Marlo Lee is a fact checker at Lead Stories. She is a graduate of Howard University with a B.S. in Biology. Her interest in fact checking started in college, when she realized how important it became in American politics. She lives in Maryland.

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