An image which has circulated online since 2013 depicts a “Virgin Atlantic” plane with a glass bottom. Is this image real or fake?
It was a 2013 April Fool’s Joke.
Virgin founder Richard Branson made an April Fool’s announcement via his online blog regarding a new “glass bottom” airline service. His blog stated:
I’m thrilled to announce that Virgin has created another world-first with the introduction of the technology required to produce the world’s first glass-bottomed plane. This technological innovation coincides with the start of Virgin Atlantic Airways’ first ever domestic service to Scotland.
Photos also were included in the blog post which show alleged designs of the new plane. The first photo shows the plane from below, while the second photo shows the view from inside the airplane.
Note that the photo depicted above doesn’t show any cargo or landing gear.
A second announcement that day by Virgin’s Bob Fear included speculation that the Loch Ness Monster may be spotted from one of these glass bottomed planes, noting that Virgin had received “special permission had been granted for Virgin Atlantic to fly low over Loch Ness to take in the stunning Scottish scenery.”
Although the prank was understood by most major news outlets, China’s CCTV apparently didn’t get the joke and ran a news item, reporting it as a real announcement. They reported that Virgin’s new glass-bottom planes would begin flying between London and Scotland and quoted a Daily Mirror article on the topic. The Daily Mirror story, however, included a notice that the item was merely an April Fool’s prank – a notice that apparently was missed by CCTV producers.
After viewers tipped off CCTV that they had been duped, the story was removed from the website.
As recently as late 2014, photos of the fake glass bottom planes continue to circulate on social media, with some readers unaware of their origin.
- Virgin launches glass-bottomed plane (Richard Branson, Virgin.com: April 1, 2013)
- Will we spot Nessie from our glass-bottomed plane? (Bob Fear, Virgin.com: April 1, 2013)
- China TV duped by Virgin’s April Fools’ announcement of glass-bottomed plane service (CBS News: April 3, 2013)
Updated December 21, 2014
Originally published September 2013