My sonic boom terror
RAF jets break sound barrier as they’re scrambled to check on airliner – and ‘nearly give its pilot a heart attack’
WHEN homeowners were shaken from their slumbers by an enormous bang, they feared it was an explosion.
Thousands of people were woken in the early hours yesterday after the bang shook homes, set off car alarms and sparked panic.
But the shattering noise was caused by a pair of RAF jets going supersonic after being scrambled to a jet flying over the country from Israel, police said yesterday.
The sonic boom could be heard from Brighton to Cambridge, and Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue said it received a ‘large number’ of calls.
The Typhoon warplanes created a sonic boom at 4.20am while flying over north London, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire after being scrambled from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
People in Essex, west London and Stevenage, Hertfordshire, were among those who tweeted to say they had been woken up by the noise. The Typhoons were cleared to go supersonic in the early hours of yesterday to intercept the Boeing 767, which was flying from Tel Aviv to New Hampshire in the United States.
The Boeing was being flown by Jet Test, an aircraft ferrying company that transports planes from sellers to buyers.
Its pilot, Steven Giordano, said he was shocked to see fighter jets on his wing, telling the BBC: ‘I looked left and about had a heart attack when I saw one – so close. We flashed our landing lights to acknowledge and established radio contact... with the fighters. We were already talking to London control at that point. They remained with us for about five minutes.’
Mr Giordano, a former airline pilot and US Marine Corps reservist, said it took ten minutes to realise there was an issue with his aircraft’s radio, which had apparently begun malfunctioning over Germany. It then took another ten minutes to resolve the problem.
He praised the speed with which the RAF scrambled, adding: ‘I applaud them for that.’
Scotland Yard later assured homeowners that there was ‘no cause for concern’.
An RAF spokesman said: ‘Typhoon aircraft were scrambled as part of Quick Reaction Alert procedures after an aircraft lost communications in UK airspace. The aircraft was intercepted and its communications were re-established.’
Depending on a jet’s altitude, the sonic boom it creates will be heard at ground level between two and 60 seconds after it breaks the speed of sound.
The distance the boom can be heard equates to around one mile for every 1,000 feet of altitude. So the boom from a supersonic aircraft at an altitude of 30,000ft would be heard 30 miles away at ground level.
‘Just been woken by an explosion’
Flight fright: Pilot Steven Giordano was delivering the Boeing 767