[Photo] Twenty-two cargo planes commemorate 9-11 anniversary with an impressive “Elephant Walk”

It took over 36 minutes for all the 22-aircraft involved in the “freedom launch” that took place at Travis AFB, California, on Sept. 11, 2013, to take off.

Seven C-17 Globemaster IIIs, 11 KC-10 Extenders and four C-5B Galaxies from the 60th Air Mobility Wing lined up in what is commonly referred to as an “elephant walk,” then launched consecutively to take part in Air Mobility Command missions, with the first plane in the lineup, a C-17 Globemaster, launching at 8:46 a.m., the same time American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City 12 years earlier.

“Elephant Walks” are a kind of collective display of capability and teamwork, during which military aircraft taxi in sequence right before a minimum interval takeoff.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force/Ken Wright


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


    • It’s sad that you think everything is about money…show some respect for goodness sake. It doesn’t matter how they commemorate, it’s the thought that counts.

    • At the end of the day, it was our military honoring the senseless loss of life and a great training opportunity. Be afraid, send a text to all of your extended family – we’re still here and we’re still united – freak show.

    • It most certainly was not just a flight “into the wild blue yonder”. When these evolutions take place, they are integrated with training requirements for junior personnel – all of whom must become proficient in all phases of whatever mission the aircraft may be tasked with. Was there any “use it or lose it” monetary considerations involved here? Probably little – if any – given sequestration and the limited budgets all U.S. military services are operating under these days. So jumping to conclusions on costs based solely on a photo is … well, shall we say … ill-advised. Using training operations to remind the American people of the atrocity that took place on 9/11 is not!

  1. While the photo certainly looks impressive, I’d much rather see a Raptor, Eagle or Falcon “walk”. Or perhaps all three, with an overflight by a dozen or so Apaches! I think that would send a much more appropriate message!

    • It is also a training exercise, just being done in a way to show respect for those who were lost on 9/11.

    • Why is it a waste of money? Since your ability to pick out information is obviously subpar, I’ll repeat a significant point for you:

      “then launched consecutively to take part in Air Mobility Command missions,”

      To explain: The aircraft already had AMC missions. The Elephant Walk was essentially a matter of lining up the birds scheduled for the morning’s missions and quick launching ’em.

  2. The money had to be spent anyways. If you knew about government pots of money and how it’s allocated, flying “hours” are given to units and they must use them up before the end of the fiscal year or they’ll get less funding the following year. That being said, I’m sure actual training was accomplished on these flights. Pilots are actually very responsible with maximizing training opportunities. So it is a wonderful way to spend the money.

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