The Ministry of Defence has been hit with a string of compensation claims after homes across Yorkshire were shaken by deafening sonic booms when two RAF jets broke the sound barrier during a supersonic pursuit.
Concerned residents in towns and villages across the region called police and fire services with reports that their houses were shaking after what sounded like two large explosions on May 2.
It’s very unusual, but it demonstrates how seriously the UK takes its security, with aviation safety being paramount after 9/11.Dr Stephen Wright
Andy Norris, from South Milford, between Leeds and Selby, said at the time: “It was so loud that it shook the pointing around our bedroom window onto the roof of our conservatory. I’ve never in all my life heard such a loud noise.”
One woman added: “Those vibrations shook my house and scared me to death.” Another added that her house was shaking and the car alarms had gone off in her street. “Apparently it was a sonic boom,” she said.
North Yorkshire Police later confirmed there was no danger to the public and the RAF later said the booms were caused by two fighter jets.
The Typhoons had taken off from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, and were flying faster than the speed of sound to intercept an Air France jet that had lost radio communications on its flight from Paris to Newcastle.
Figures obtained by i, The Yorkshire Post’s sister paper, under Freedom of Information laws show the MOD has since received 11 compensation claims for damage to property in North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.
They include five claims for damaged windows, three claims of damage to roofs, two for cracked ceilings – and one claim for a cracked fish tank.
So far, the MOD has paid out just over £550 to claimants. The remaining claims are yet to be settled, while one claim for a dislodged roof tile has been withdrawn.
Dr Stephen Wright, an aviation lecturer at the University of Leeds, heard the sonic booms but suffered no damage to his home. At first he thought a car had crashed into a house on his street, before hearing an aircraft flying quickly overhead.
He told i: “Those guys were going at maximum speed. They are doing a job. They are keeping us all safe. It’s very unusual, but it demonstrates how seriously the UK takes its security, with aviation safety being paramount after 9/11.
“Pilots are not allowed to fly at that speed over the mainland. They have to answer to the Civil Aviation Authority. The RAF is very considerate and doesn’t want to disturb people on the ground, but there are times when they have to maintain the safety and defence of the nation.”
Separate figures obtained by i under FOI laws show that the MOD has paid out £3,576 to claimants following eight sonic booms since April 2013.
Those payments include £1,207 for cracked windows in Anglesey in March 2014, £780 for damaged patio doors and a chandelier in Cambridgeshire in June 2014 and £500 for a car accident in Cambridgeshire the same month where it was claimed a driver was startled by the noise of a sonic boom.
Other claims in the last four years have also been made for damaged garden furniture and a cracked car window in Cambridgeshire and cracked greenhouse glass in Anglesey.
They have also been made for dislodged roof tiles in Lincolnshire and Hertfordshire, cracked windows in Norfolk and cracked patio doors in Essex.
An RAF spokesman said: “RAF aircrew are subject to stringent control over the use of supersonic speed over land.
“However, they are sometimes authorised to transit at supersonic speed for operational reasons as part of their role in the defence of the UK.
“Any inconvenience caused by the public is regretted, but this must be balanced against the need to maintain national security in an unpredictable and dangerous world.”