Thursday, September 18, 2014

F-15 fighter from Robins Air Base caused sonic boom in Columbus, Georgia

A day after denying that any supersonic flights came from Robins Air Force Base, the base public affairs office sent out a release this afternoon confirming that an F-15 fighter jet flew over Columbus and created the sonic boom about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Confirmation of the supersonic flight comes a day after a public affairs spokesman said Wednesday that the base had checked flight tests and found no scheduled flights in the area. 

The release said the aircraft was enroute to Robins Air Force Base for scheduled maintenance. Public affairs officials were unavailable for comment and the event remains under investigation.

The origin of a sonic boom that rocked the Columbus area on Tuesday is still unknown after a Robins Air Force Base official said that two F-15 fighter aircraft didn’t come from the base in Warner Robins, Ga.

Roland Leach, a media relations spokesman for the 78th Air Base Wing, said the base received a number of telephone calls after erroneous reports of the aircraft flying from the middle Georgia base. Columbus area residents spilled out into the streets when a sonic boom jolted the city just before 5 p.m. 

Leach said no report of flight activity was found at Robins after checking with base operations and the flight test squadron. 

“We did not have any fights coming from Robins yesterday,” Leach said of Tuesday’s sonic boom. “We have been getting a lot of calls from there. They must have had a flight coming from somewhere.”

Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said officials were aware of some military flights in the area on Tuesday but not supersonic. A search is continuing in the cause of the loud noise. 

Fire Marshal Ricky Shores of the Columbus Fire & Emergency Medical Services said information from the Columbus Airport identified two F-15 aircraft breaking the sound barrier while flying over the area. He said there was some speculation as to whether the aircraft were headed to Warner Robins or in the area. 

“That was information I got from the airport,” Shores said. 

Officials at the airport also said the aircraft were flying at an undisclosed altitude before the loud noise. “It startled some folks and caught some folks off guard, “ Shores said. 
The F-15 has a top speed of more than 1,650 mph, more than twice the speed of sound. 

Pressure builds on the nose of the aircraft once it reaches the speed of sound. “There is a wave that comes off the airplane and when it hits the ground it is the pressure that equalizes,” Leach said. “The moment it hits the ground, that’s where you hear the boom sound.”

Leach said the aircraft at Robins go on flight tests after repairs. A supersonic run called the Macon Echo starts east of Columbus but it’s usually at 39,000 to 55,000 feet over ground and an unpopulated area.

If an aircraft is traveling faster than the speed of sound, it’s not likely that you will hear the boom and see the plane. “The boom goes the whole distance the plane is supersonic,” he said. “The wave will come off the plane and hit at one point. It might be past you by the time you actually hear it. It’s moving pretty fast. 

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