D.C. residents alarmed by booming sound on Sunday


Photo by Tech. Sgt. Dave Ahlschwede for U.S.Air Force

Six F-16s similar to this were scrambled to overtake a private plane flying through highly restricted air space over D.C. The F-16 pilots reportedly saw the private plane pilot slumped over in the cockpit. The Air Force did not shoot at the plane.

Andres Rubio, Staff Writer

What caused the giant boom heard all across Washington DC? On Sunday afternoon, a giant boom could be heard throughout Bowie MD, College Park, parts of Northeast DC and northern VA, causing confusion and worry.  

It turned out to be a sonic boom caused by F-16 jets that were scrambled from a variety of air force bases and sent to intercept an aircraft at supersonic speed after a pilot entered an unauthorized area just above D.C.

An F/A-18 Hornet displaying rare localized condensation as it breaks the speed of sound. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

However, this information only just came out and many thought the worst when they first heard this giant boom. One of my neighbors said “My whole entire apartment building shook. Was it an earthquake?” 

Some thought even worse had happened; my mother called me asking if I was ok as she heard it and believed It to be a bomb. However, many didn’t feel or even hear anything, personally I was out with a friend, and we definitely didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary in uptown DC. 

Though people were worried, no one in the area was in danger. Sadly, four people lost their lives when the private plane crashed into the mountains of a scarcely populated area in southwest Virginia. Experts said it was likely that the pilot lost consciousness when they hit altitude not long after takeoff, which experts said was likely caused by a problem with the Cessna Citation’s pressurization.

The private plane that crashed was a Cessna Citation similar to this. (Photo by Tomás Del Coro via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

The plane belonged to John Rumpel, who is 75 and runs a private jet company, He told The New York Times that his daughter, his 2-year-old granddaughter, her nanny and the pilot were aboard the flight. But at least they went peacefully. Rumpel, a retired pilot, said that due to the plane losing pressure “they all just would have gone to sleep and never woke up,” which is truly tragic. Though the boom was neither a bomb nor earthquake, lives were sadly lost on June 6.