RAF sonic boom: Ministry of Defence receives TV and window damage claims

about 8 hours ago

Typhoon taking off from RAF Coningsby in 2006Ministry of DefenceRAF Typhoons, similar to the aircraft pictured, took off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and escorted the civilian aircraft to London Stansted Airport

Claims for damage to a household TV and roof tiles have been made after a sonic boom was caused by RAF Typhoons that were intercepting a private plane.

The Typhoons "safely escorted" the civilian aircraft to Stansted Airport in Essex on 12 January.

Six damage claims have been made to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after the boom was heard across eastern England.

An RAF spokesman said compensation could be paid "subject to the provision of supporting evidence".

"The RAF is responsible for policing UK airspace and would prefer not to cause any disturbance to those on the ground, however, the safety and security of the nation remains paramount," he said.

People's reaction to the sonic boom was caught on camera

The RAF Typhoons were authorised to fly at supersonic speed when they were deployed from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to intercept the private jet.

That aircraft was believed to have been flying from Germany to Birmingham and had lost communications - sparking an alert.

The boom, at about 13:05 GMT, was reported across social media by people in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and parts of London.

It led the RAF to offer a "helping hand" to those home-schooling by sharing a lesson on sonic booms.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request, the MoD said it "received notification of six claims", three of which were from people in Essex, although the locations of the other three were not specified.

"The alleged damage is to windows (two claims), dislodged roof tiles (two claims), a television and a wall picture," the MoD said.

It added: "The MoD has not settled any claims arising from the sonic incident on 12 January 2021."

Still from RAF video about sonic boomsRAFThe RAF video explains how supersonic aeroplanes cause sonic booms
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What causes a sonic boom?

When an aircraft approaches the speed of sound, the air in front of the nose of the plane builds up a pressure front because it has "nowhere to escape", said Dr Jim Wild of Lancaster University.

A sonic boom happens when that air "escapes", creating a ripple effect which can be heard on the ground as a loud thunderclap.

The speed of sound varies. It is about 770mph (1,200km/h) at sea level, but slower at higher altitudes. A plane flying at 30,000ft would reach the speed of sound at about 675mph (1,085km/h), according to NASA's educational website.

It can be heard over such a large area because it moves with the plane, rather like the wake of a boat spreading out behind the vessel.

RAF jets are only given permission to go supersonic over populated areas in emergencies, usually when they are required to intercept another aircraft.

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