The Independent

Blast that shook homes was a sonic boom, say police


Police have revealed that a loud noise heard in parts of the UK was a sonic boom from a jet breaking the sound barrier. The thunderous blast was heard across Leicesters­hire and Northampto­nshire, and by people in Banbury and Oxford – with some reporting it made their homes shake.

Essex Police have now confirmed that the sound was two RAF jets scrambled to escort a plane to London Stansted airport after it lost communicat­ions.

A spokespers­on for the force said: “A flight has been diverted to Stansted airport after communicat­ions with the pilot had been lost. The plane, which had been flying from Iceland to Nairobi via Southend was escorted to the airport by RAF jets and landed shortly before 12.50pm [on Saturday].

“Two people – a pilot and co-pilot – were on board. Officers ... are satisfied there was a loss of contact due to an equipment malfunctio­n and nothing of any concern. The plane and those on board have now been released to continue their journey.”

On social media, plane spotters earlier today suggested the sound may have come from an RAF Typhoon fighter jet scrambling to intercept another aircraft in distress.

Aarondeep Mann, 22, heard the bang in Houghton-on-the-Hill, Leicesters­hire, and said his first thought was it may have been a gas explosion. “It was the most random, loud thing we’ve ever heard as we were clearing the boot of the car out,” Mr Mann, a practice manager, said. “First thoughts were that it could be a gas pipe explosion. All the neighbours came out as the houses were practicall­y shaking.”

Lee Shellard from Syston, Leicester, was watching television when he heard the loud explosion. He told the BBC: “It shook ornaments and bits around the house. But it wasn’t like an earthquake, more like a big lorry had gone past. So we nipped outside to see what had happened and other people were looking out of their windows as well. That’s when I went back and checked the CCTV footage.”

A sonic boom is caused when planes fly faster than the speed of sound, which at sea level is around 761mph. When travelling at this speed, also known as Mach 1, the aircraft displaces the air and creates pressure waves that become compressed and then released in a shock wave.

As long as the aircraft is flying at Mach 1 it will generate continuous sound waves, known as a “boom carpet”. An aircraft flying at 20,000ft would create a sonic boom cone 20 miles wide.

A similar incident occurred over London in January 2021 after RAF jets were scrambled to help a private plane.

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