Sonic boom heard in DC region caused by military flight, authorities say

Fighter jets from Joint Base Andrews scrambled to intercept a private plane over Virginia on Sunday afternoon, setting off a sonic boom that reverberated throughout the area, authorities said.

The sonic boom was related to a Cessna that later crashed in southwestern Virginia, three people with knowledge of the incident said. Two of them said Andrews’ F-16s became agitated and the Cessna did not respond when called by authorities.

It is not clear why the Cessna did not respond or why it later crashed. People with knowledge of the event said the military did not shoot down the plane and there is no indication that the military caused the crash.

The loud, explosive sound of the sonic boom startled residents throughout the District, Maryland, and Virginia at around 3:10 p.m. For nearly an hour, it was unclear what had caused the noise. On social media, people from Springfield, Virginia to Bowie, Md., reported hearing the rumble and feeling accompanying vibrations that shook homes and left people searching for the source of the sound.

Annapolis and Bowie officials said on Twitter that it was caused by a Department of Defense flight.

“The loud bang heard in the DMV area was caused by a DOD authorized flight. This flight caused a sonic boom. That is all the information available at this time.” according to a statement by the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management.

Officials in Bowie said they “confirmed that the loud boom heard in Bowie was a sonic boom from an aircraft leaving Joint Base Andrews.”

A media representative for Joint Base Andrews could not say what caused the boom, but suggested that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) would know. NORAD did not immediately respond to calls or an email.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that a Cessna Citation plane crashed near Montebello, Virginia, around 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said state and local law enforcement are still searching for the downed plane and have not yet found the crash site. The search and rescue team is unable to fly over the area where officials suspect the aircraft crashed due to low clouds and fog in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The plane had taken off from Elizabethton Municipal Airport in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and was headed to Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York, the FAA said.

Public aviation records said the plane that crashed was registered to Encore Motors of Melbourne, a Florida-based company. Contacted by phone, John Rumpel said that he was the owner of Encore. Asked if the plane that crashed was owned by Encore, he said: “As far as I know.” Rumpel said his “entire family” was on board, including his daughter, a grandson and his nanny. “We don’t know anything about the accident,” he said. “We are talking to the FAA now. … I have to keep the line clear.”

The FAA said the National Transportation Safety Board would lead the accident investigation. The board did not have any information to share about the incident Sunday night.

Data from Flightradar24 flight tracking service shows a plane matching the Citation’s description and the flight path arriving at Long Island before turning around. The aircraft flew directly over Washington before final data near Staunton, Virginia.