Pilot error to blame for damaging sonic boom over Tucson - Tucson News Now

Pilot error to blame for damaging sonic boom over Tucson

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It rattled nerves and broke windows across much of midtown, and now we have the final Air Force report on the Thunderbirds' rehearsal gone wrong.

The Air Force investigation reveals the sonic boom over Tucson on April 13th was due to pilot error.

The Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team was practicing for the air show at Davis- Monthan Air Force Base when the sonic bomb slammed through the air.

The F-16 fighter jet was about 3,600 feet above the ground. Buildings shook, 9-1-1 calls went through the roof.

KOLD News 13 interviewed several claimants at the time.

Donald Morley said, "I was coming down my driveway sounded like a bomb went off in the trunk of my car."

Lois Schuerman also filed a damage claim. "I was very upset," she said. "I've never heard anything so loud, it was scary."

Business owner Cindy Phillips said she had broken glass and other damage. "I don't believe it. There was someone in the bathroom. The vent fell down. It was very scary for that person," she said.

The Air Force set up a claim center for people whose property was damaged.

The Air Force says the total damage amount came to a little more than $22,000.

Captain Christie Jones, of the U.S. Air Force Legal Team in Tucson said, "We're part of this community as well. These are our neighbors, family, co-workers. We want to make sure we're giving outreach to them."

The official Air Force report says the pilot accelerated above Mach 1 for nine seconds during practice over Tucson.

Among the issues the investigation found: The pilot made a different turn than usual.

Add to that, challenging visual conditions, a tightly scripted show that might not allow for possible deviations.

The report says the pilot became "task saturated."

In other words, there was so much going on that the pilot didn't crosscheck the plane's speed.

He didn't know, until it was too late, that he was breaking the sound barrier.

The report says, "There is an audible 'Oh crap' in (the pilot's) intercom when he recognizes his mistake."

In the report, the pilot's name has been redacted. An interesting note.

For this investigation, the Air Force brought in a NASA engineer. In the report, the engineer says NASA is working on a sonic boom cockpit display.

The engineer says it would be an important part of a future civilian supersonic aircraft.

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