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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Sonic Boom Rattles Washington As Fighter Jets Chase Unresponsive Aircraft

A sonic boom rattled Washington and its suburbs on Sunday afternoon as US fighter aircraft chased an unresponsive Cessna jet that had flown over the region and later crashed in Virginia. The F-16 fighter jets were scrambled from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, causing a loud boom that startled residents and shook windows for miles.

The jets were chasing an unresponsive Cessna 560 Citation V, which had flown over restricted airspace over Washington and then crashed in Southwest Virginia, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said in a statement. The pilot of the private plane was unresponsive when hailed by authorities as it flew over Washington and northern Virginia, the NORAD statement said. The plane, which had four people on board, crashed in a forest area of southwest Virginia. No survivors were found when rescuers got to the wreckage.

According to flight tracker data, NORAD says it tried to contact the plane’s pilot, which had a registration number of N611VG and was en route from Elizabethton, Tennessee, to Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York City. The NORAD statement said it climbed to 34,000 feet before it started its descent over Washington. It flew at supersonic speeds, which could have caused the sonic boom that rattled many Washington-area residents, and it also used flares that may have been visible to those on the ground.

Residents took to social media to report the loud sound, which rattled windows and sent some people outside. The sound lasted 10 seconds, and one woman recorded it on her Ring doorbell camera. The sonic boom was heard at least as far away as Annapolis, Maryland, and northern Virginia, and it was also picked up by radar sensors at Washington’s airports.

A reporter for NBC Washington tweeted that the sound was so intense it was felt on the roof of his apartment building. “The sound shook the ground and windows of buildings for blocks,” the journalist wrote.

Many people on social media were puzzled by the noise. “What the heck was that?” asked one user. “Whoa, that was crazy,” another person added.

Several Washington area’s TV and radio stations reported the sound as a “loud bang.” A journalist for ABC News said the sound was probably a sonic boom, which can be heard when a plane travels through the air at supersonic speeds.

Airspace over Washington has been highly restricted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. President Joe Biden was briefed on the incident, and the White House and Capitol complex were put on elevated but not red alert, which would have required a mass evacuation. Biden was playing golf at the time of the crash. NORAD, which oversees the country’s nuclear arsenal, also issued a statement saying that the pilot of the Cessna was believed to have been attempting to avoid a transatlantic flight restriction by flying over the US East Coast and that it was not a deliberate act.

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