A sonic boom rang out in Washington on Sunday as two fighter jets tried to intercept an unresponsive plane that was about to crash in the US state of Virginia, officials told AFP.
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Residents of the federal capital of the United States and its suburbs reported hearing a rumble of thunder that rattled windows and walls for miles around and raised questions on social media.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) described two F-16 fighter jets as unresponsive after a private jet ‘Cessna 560 Citation V’ over Washington and Northern Virginia.
The two fighter jets took off from the Andrews base in Maryland, a Pentagon official told AFP, to join the plane that crashed in a mountainous area in the country’s southwest.
President Joe Biden, who was in the area Sunday, has been briefed on the incident, a White House official told reporters, without specifying whether any precautions were taken.
According to the American Civil Aviation Authority (FAA), the civil aircraft took off from Elizabethton, Tennessee (east), New York state (northeast) to reach Long Island.
NORAD fighter jets “were allowed to travel at supersonic speeds and a sonic boom was heard by residents of the area,” the command said in a statement. The plane also threw debris in an attempt to attract the pilot’s attention.
Norad said he intercepted the flight at around 3:20pm local time and tried to make contact with the pilot before the plane crashed.
The plane crashed near Montebello, Va., about 270 miles southwest of Washington, around 3:30 p.m. local time, the FAA said.
Several US media reported that the military did not shoot down the plane.
No information has yet been released about the pilot and passengers on board.
About 50km east of the federal capital, the Annapolis City Office of Emergency Management assured residents on Twitter that the “crash was by an authorized Department of Defense aircraft”. The flight caused a sonic boom.
A sonic boom occurs when a device breaks the sound barrier. They can surprise people and cause damage, especially by breaking windows.