US military causes ‘sonic boom’ by accident
An Air National Guard unit in Oregon has apologized after one of its aircraft “inadvertently” caused a sonic boom that raised concerns that the state was being rocked by an earthquake.
The incident occurred on Tuesday, just a week after Oregon was shaken by a swarm of nearly 100 offshore earthquakes. A day later, the 142nd Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard confessed that it was to blame for the shocking boom.
A training flight “inadvertently went supersonic” while operating off the Oregon coast, the unit said in a Facebook post. “We understand that this caused concern from our coastal residents and for that we sincerely apologize.”
Sgt. Steven Conklin said Air National Guard pilots are allowed to cause such booms when flying at least 15 miles away from the coast, but the nose of the aircraft should be pointed away from land. In Tuesday’s incident, the jet was located more than 15 miles offshore, but its nose was pointed “slightly toward the coastline,” he said.
Sonic booms are triggered by the shock waves that are created when an object travels through the air at faster than the speed of sound, or about 760 miles per hour. The booms sound similar to an explosion and can damage eardrums and shatter windows.
The US Air Force and Navy have paid out hundreds of damage and injury claims stemming from sonic booms over the years. In one case that the Air Force settled for $26,000 in 1982, a Tennessee family alleged that the boom killed 61 pigs, knocked out a woman’s dental fillings and picked up a house from its foundation. The woman also claimed to have suffered blurred vision, earaches and dizzy spells for weeks.
The Federal Aviation Administration has banned supersonic civilian flight over land since 1973. The Air National Guard unit didn’t identify the type of jet involved in Tuesday’s incident. Some US military jets can fly at more than double the speed of sound.