Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter jets launched on Wednesday to intercept a cargo airliner that was worrying air traffic control towers in the United Kingdom. The aircraft causing worries was a Russian made cargo plane, a Antonov An-26 out of Latvia. the RAF Typhoon fighters successfully intercepted the cargo plane and escorted it to London Stansted.
According to an Royal Air Force spokesman, the Typhoon jets launched in the afternoon from RAF Coningsby to intercept the cargo plane that was south of London. The fighters quickly reacted and approached the suspect aircraft at supersonic speeds. The RAF regrets the use of the high-speed intercept and any noise disturbance as a result of the operation. Currently, Essex Police are now in control of the operation and investigation.
According to Essex Police indicated that the Royal Air Force fighters intercepted the Russian made cargo aircraft following a loss in communications between the plane and ground control. The aircraft, with RAF escort, touched down safely around 5:20pm local London time at Stagnated Airport. The three crew members on board have been interviewed by the police. The believed reasoning for the loss of communication appears to be due to a change in the jurisdiction of airspace as the cargo airliner flew towards its destination of Birmingham. Police indicated that the incident is not being investigated any further by police and as soon as the cargo plane is ready, it will continue its journey to Birmingham.
As the RAF fighters sped towards the cargo plane, around 4:40pm local time people in the area of Kent heard a loud bang. The Typhoon fighters broke the sound barrier and a sonic boom rocked the region. It was loud enough, Twitter feeds from the area exploded with speculation that there had been either an earthquake or an explosion in the area. A spokeswoman for Kent Police said that there had been a high number of calls reporting a loud bang in the north-west area of Kent.
The bang from the sonic boom was heard coming from the Dartford area. The sound of the Royal Air Force fighters breaking the sound barrier was felt in Kemsing, Sevenoakes, Faversham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone. A tweet from a resident of Wilmington said that her house was shaking from the sonic boom and another Twitter post from Kent said they had felt their house shake. Other feeds showed the sound was heard all over the Kent area.
Taking to Twitter themselves, the Royal Air Force tweeted an apologizing for the sonic boom. The RAF indicated that they only go supersonic over dry ground when it is absolutely necessary.
In a Soundcloud clip released of the warnings from the Royal Air Force Typhoons to the intercepted Russian made cargo aircraft, the RAF pilots indicated that on the order of Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom, if the Latvian cargo airliner did not respond, it would be shot down. RAF fighters rarely go supersonic over dry land, and even more rare to do so in populated areas. It remains to be seen what justified the call for a supersonic intercept of the cargo plane since all indications point to just a communication breakdown as the airplane transitioned from one airspace to another.
By Carl Auer