Davis-Monthan training means more jets over Tucson

In this 2010 file photo,  F-16 fighters from the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Fighter Wing based at Tucson International Airport, zoom through the skies over Memorial Day ceremonies held at East Lawn Palms Cemetery.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke Air Force Base that broke the sound barrier was the cause of the loud noise that rattled windows and nerves in the Tucson area Wednesday night.

At about 7:45 p.m., "the 425th Fighter Squadron from Luke was flying F-16 training missions in the Sells area," according to a statement released Thursday by the base near Phoenix.

The statement said the base confirmed an aircraft "went supersonic just northwest of Kitt Peak," which is southwest of Tucson.

It also said, "The altitude at which the aircraft broke the sound barrier was legal for supersonic flight in the area."

"We train pilots every day. We fly many sorties every day," said Staff Sgt. Chris Hatch of Luke's 56th Fighter Wing.

The F-16s in the Wednesday night mission were using flight paths and corridors around the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in southwest Arizona, Hatch said.

At least two and possibly up to six F-16s were involved in the mission, Hatch said.

Reports of the window-rattling boom flooded social media sites, and hundreds of calls came in to the Tucson-area 911 dispatchers shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office didn't report any calls from concerned residents. But the Pima County Sheriff's Department heard from people living west of Campbell Avenue and as far north as the Pinal County line and as far south as Green Valley, said Deputy Tom Peine, a sheriff's spokesman.

The Tucson Police Department contacted Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson International Airport and the National Guard Wednesday night, said department spokesman Sgt. Chris Widmer, "but they didn't know the cause of the noise."

What is a sonic boom?

When an airplane travels through the air, it produces sound waves. If the plane travels slower than the speed of sound (about 700 mph), sound waves propagate ahead of the plane. If the plane flies faster than the speed of sound, it produces a sonic boom.

The boom is the "wake" of the plane's sound waves. All of the sound waves that would have normally propagated ahead of the plane are combined so at first one hears nothing, then hears the boom.


• Primary function: Multirole fighter.

• Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.

• Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches.

• Length: 49 feet, 5 inches.

• Weight: 19,700 pounds without fuel.

• Fuel capacity: 7,000 pounds internal; typical capacity, 12,000 pounds with two external tanks.

• Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude).

Source: Air Force fact sheet

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191. On Twitter: AzDailyStarReporter