Fighter jet drama over Bath
By Bath Chronicle | Friday, April 13, 2012, 06:45
Two fighter jets screamed across the skies above Bath last night in an incident that was still raising questions this morning.
Megan Kelland 2
Photo of the Typhoon taken from Odd Down
The jet fighters and the object - Daniel Head
The jet fighter over Shoscombe, Picture from Oldfield Rugby Club on Twitter
The mystery object - taken by Neil Denny
Eurofighter Typhoon jet
The Ministry of Defence and police said the supersonic aircraft were responding to what appeared to be an emergency call from a helicopter.
Residents from Peasedown to Weston saw and heard one of the Typhoon Eurofighters flying low over the city yesterday evening.
It was tracking a helicopter flying over the Bath area, but the other one of the pair appeared to some onlookers to be concentrating on a white or silver object much higher in the sky.
The Ministry of Defence today insisted that it was only the helicopter – which had been emitting the sort of emergency signal which could indicate an aircraft had been hijacked – that had been of interest to the £126 million jets.
The Typhoon had created a sonic boom, which was heard in Bath, Swindon, Coventry, Rugby and Oxford.
Mystery surrounded the source of the noise for more than an hour. Speculation about what could have caused the noise ranged from a large explosion to a tremor under the earth.
Many people on Twitter reported doors and windows shaking, while others thought there had been an underground explosion.
The helicopter’s signal turned out to be a false alarm and police said the chopper had a faulty transponder.
The MoD said: “We can confirm that a small civilian aircraft was transmitting inadvertently on an emergency frequency at approximately 6.10pm. Two Typhoons from the Quick Reaction Alert responded accordingly and authorisation was given from them to go supersonic which resulted in the sonic boom. There was no actual threat to the civilian aircraft and they soon rectified their mistake.”
Video courtesy of Ric McLaughlin
A statement from Avon and Somerset Police said: “We received reports of a loud bang in various locations in the force area at about 6.15pm.
“It is believed that this was from a sonic boom from jet aircraft passing over the area. The jets were responding to reports of a civilian helicopter that had a faulty transponder; the helicopter completed its journey and landed safe and well outside the force area with no issues.”
The QRA are based at RAF Conningsby in Lincolnshire and will be on stand-by to deal with incidents during the Olympics.
Neither statement made any reference to the presence of the other object – said to be silver and rocket-shaped.
There has been speculation that it might have been a weather balloon, but the Met Office today ruled out the possibility, saying they were not released at that time of day.
Today an MoD spokesman said: “The Typhoons went out because of the helicopter and then came back. They did not report any other unusual air activity.”
One suggestion has been that the object might have been a solar balloon – although these tend to be black. This would be a possibly home-made balloon constructed from plastic sheeting which could fly at up to 50,000ft.
Sean Whyte from Bath said one jet had flown as low as 2,000ft over Weston and Odd Down in pursuit of the helicopter.
“The jet was weaving around the helicopter as if to warn it off. The noise was incredible.”
But he added: “At the same time high above, another Typhoon, the shape is very distinctive, was seemingly buzzing a white object at about 35,000 ft. This white rocket-shaped object was in the NE and stationary. Clouds eventually obscured both but we had been watching for maybe five minutes. We were not seeing things!”
A witness on this website said: “My mother and sister also witnessed the silver floating object. They described it as shaped like a rocket, and that it moved horizontally, then stopped, then moved vertically up until they lost sight of it.”
The jet had circled low over the south of the city.
One eyewitness said: “It appeared quite close to the helicopter and it was very loud.
“It was around for a good five minutes or so and it was pretty low.”
Another eyewitness said: “It circled for quite a while. It was low over Southdown.”
Oldfield Rugby Club posted a picture of the drama on Twitter, saying: “Camera scrambled as Fighter jet pulls away from helicopter over Shoscombe, not best picture but WOW it was amazing see!“
@rustywhite1984 said: “The fighter jet zooming around above bath at the mo is loud, are we under attack?“
@lgladdy said on Twitter: “Amazing fighter jet display going on over bath right now.”
A sonic boom is the sound associated with the shockwaves created when an object travels through the air and breaks the sound barrier.
The noise contains large amounts of sound energy, meaning sonic booms are often mistaken for explosions.
It is the second time this year that a sonic boom has been created by a Typhoon aircraft.
In January, the MoD confirmed that a loud noise heard by people across the North of England was caused by an RAF fighter jet breaking the sound barrier.
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Video courtesy of Ric McLaughlin