The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) typically puts on an air show during the finale of its Brisbane Festival celebrations. The video of a flight maneuver from one such display in 2018 has gone viral on Reddit, with some recalling the controversy surrounding the maneuver at the time.
The clip shows a C-17 Globemaster flying just a few hundred feet above the ground of the large city, seemingly zipping and maneuvering between skyscrapers.
Many viewers say the video was a scary reminder of 9/11, with one commenter stating that watching it "instantly took [them] back" to that time. The video courted controversy in 2018, with some calling the "9/11-like stunt" an "unnecessarily stupid and dangerous" maneuver.
Was it a dangerous stunt? Could it have ended in disaster? We take a look at the facts on this C-17 Globemaster maneuver and air shows in general.
About that 2018 C-17 flight maneuver
The original video, which can be seen below, starts with the C-17 flying between skyscrapers before making a veering right turn and slowly rising as the video ends.
Though the angle of the video, which was captured on a smartphone, makes the maneuver look particularly dramatic, a statement from the RAAF at the time provides details about the safety measures taken.
The C-17 flew approximately 330 feet (100 meters) above the ground at nearly 200 mph (320 km/h). Though the figures and footage are dramatic, the plane was actually flying over Brisbane River for a large part of the flight, meaning it did have space to shift in either direction. In the unlikely event of an engine failure, it would have crashed into the water.
More footage from a similar maneuver in Brisbane in 2019 clearly shows the C-17 Globemaster flying over Brisbane river:
It is worth pointing out that a C-17 owned by the USAF was part of a fatal crash in 2010 that killed all four passengers. The crash, which occurred during training for an air show display was blamed on pilot error.
The Brisbane stunt was, of course, well-rehearsed, and it was planned over several months, with the public well aware it was going to occur ahead of time. The Royal Australian Air Force also have experience with such stunts.
Famously, from 2006 to 2010 at night time during the celebrations, the RAAF did a "dump and burn" maneuver with F-111 Aardvarks that would see the aircraft dump fuel from a nozzle before igniting it with an afterburner and lighting up the sky. The impressive maneuver can be seen in the video above.
Are air shows generally safe?
For all the well-rehearsed air show flight maneuvers that are perfectly executed every year, unfortunately, air show disasters do occasionally occur.
One recent disaster occurred in the United Kingdom at the Shoreham Airshow. On 22 August 2015, a Hawker Hunter T7 fighter jet crashed onto a nearby major road after not correcting itself and flying too low following a loop maneuver.
Footage of the crash shows a huge fireball erupt as the aircraft hit the road, sadly killing 11 people, and injuring 16 others. Incredibly, the pilot survived with only minor injuries. An inquest into the exact reasons behind the accident is still ongoing.
The Sknyliv, Ukraine air show disaster in 2002, meanwhile, saw 77 people killed and 543 injured after a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet crashed into an audience stand. It is the deadliest air show disaster in history.
Despite these accidents, the likelihood of an air show disaster occurring is relatively low. As the International Council of Air Shows points out, there are approximately 350 air shows in the US and Canada alone each year, and the majority of these occur without notable accidents.