B-1 bomber's sonic boom rattles residents on Saipan, Tinian
March 13, 2003
Residents of Saipan and Tinian islands were startled Monday when an Air Force B-1 bomber broke the sound barrier, triggering a sonic boom that shattered windows during the dinner hour.
The 5:30 p.m. boom “sounded like an atomic bomb actually was dropped on the Marianas. It was that powerful,” Juan Babauta, governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, told Guam television station KUAM Monday night.
“We’re investigating,” said 1st Lt. Tom Wenz, 7th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs chief. “This event was not planned.” He said the boom happened when the plane was 20,000 feet over open water east of CNMI. “There were two B-1s making familiarization flights,” he said. “Just one went supersonic.”
Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base is crowded in the face of increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula. The B-1s are deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; the B-52s are out of Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
Col. Jonathan D. George, 7th AEW commander, said he is conducting a “thorough review of all flight activity” and will “establish specific requirements to ensure there will not be any similar occurrences near populated areas,” stated a news release. Practice approach flights to Saipan International Airport and supersonic runs have been suspended.
A claims team from the Staff Judge Advocate office will visit the Saipan Emergency Management Office Wednesday and Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Claimants should submit proof of damages along with proof of ownership of all items claimed.