Paris shaken by sonic boom from fighter jet

A massive bang that shook Paris and surrounding areas on Wednesday was caused by a sonic boom from a fighter jet, police have confirmed.

Paris shaken by sonic boom from fighter jet
Photo: AFP

The noise was heard at about 12 noon and could be heard right across the city and into the suburbs, with hundreds of people taking to Twitter to ask what was going on.

People living in the central parts of the city also reported feeling the ground tremble and seeing their windows shake.


Across the city people stopped in the streets and shouted out to their neighbours to ask what was happening.


The noise was also heard at Roland Garros stadium, where the delayed French Open tennis tournament is underway.


In a city scarred by repeated terror attacks, including a knife attack outside the former Charlie Hebdo offices just six days ago, many people's thoughts turned initially to a bomb.


But in fact Paris police have confirmed that the noise was caused by a sonic boom from a passing plane.


The boom was apparently caused when the fighter jet breaking the sound barrier as it passed over Paris, and police have asked people to stop calling them to report the noise.

Paris is normally a no-fly zone for military jets, which is why the noise took so many people by surprise, but the Armed Forces minister Florence Parly confirmed that the jet was taking part in an “intercept mission” when it broke the sound barrier.


It was reported that the jet was dispatched to intercept a passenger plane which had lost contact with aviation authorities. In this circumstance, dispatching a military plane to intercept the aircraft is normal practice.

 “A Rafale, carrying out an intervention to assist an aircraft that had lost contact, was authorised to break the sound barrier to reach the aircraft in difficulty,” a French air force spokesman told AFP.

No detail was given on the type of aircraft or the nature of its difficulty. The spokesman said the fighter emitted its sonic boom over the east of Paris.

France's DGAC civil aviation authority played down the seriousness of the incident, saying that a plane made by Brazil's Embraer had suffered “a loss of radio frequency” while flying over the west of France but that contact was re-established.

It explained such situations take place “regularly,” In 2019, the French air force counted 450 abnormal aviation situations, 210 of which needed intervention by fighter jets or helicopters.

Those who live in French countryside where fighter jets flying in the skies above are more common, would probably not have been so panicked by the noise.


According to the North American Space Agency: “A sonic boom is the thunder-like noise a person on the ground hears when an aircraft or other type of aerospace vehicle flies overhead faster than the speed of sound or supersonic.

“Air reacts like a fluid to supersonic objects. As objects travel through the air, the air molecules are pushed aside with great force and this forms a shock wave much like a boat creates a bow wave. The bigger and heavier the aircraft, the more air it displaces.”

And Nasa says: “An aircraft flying supersonic at 50,000 feet can produce a sonic boom cone about 50 miles wide,” which is why so many people around the French capital heard it.

Member comments

  1. Interesting, or maybe not … we get low flying fighters here fairly reguarly but it’s usuall just one flight crossing, this afternoon, there seems to be constant fighter activity over head for the last hour or so – that is unusual.

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”