Hearing thunder on a sunny day? It's a sonic boom, not a storm

Supersonic Flight celebration brings sonic booms


October 13, 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the achievement of supersonic flight, the day we broke the sound barrier. To celebrate, Edwards Air Force Base will have a ceremony at 11 a.m. complete with sonic booms. As a result, many people across Kern County, especially those down in the desert and some up in the mountains, will hear a thunderous noise, even though the skies are calm and clear.

So what exactly is a sonic boom?

Of course NASA sums it up perfectly here by stating: "A sonic boom is a 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 fluid to supersonic objects. As those objects travel through the air, molecules are pushed aside with great force and this forms a shock wave, much like a boat creates a wake in water. The bigger and heavier the aircraft, the more air it displaces."

We have the chance to hear the booms down here in the South San Joaquin Valley, but it will depend on several elements at the time of the supersonic flights overhead. As NASA explains, "there are several factors that can influence sonic booms -- weight, size, and shape of the aircraft or vehicle, plus its altitude, attitude, and flight path, and weather or atmospheric conditions."

Other than the wildfire smoke filling into the county, we actually have great weather and good atmospheric conditions for tomorrow's ceremonial flights. There will be clear skies and wind speeds are 15-25 mph at ground level, with faster winds aloft but not enough to cause turbulence.

After the ceremony, Edwards Air Force Base is launching a formation flight which is scheduled to pass over Central California schools. Two F-16 Fighting Falcons, a B-1B Lancer and an F-18 Hornet from NASA will fly on a route over the Antelope Valley and Bakersfield. Here's the schedule: 



12:15 to 12:30 (*approximate)

  • Stockdale High School
  • Charles H Castle Elementary School
  • Amy B Seibert Elementary School
  • Planz Elementary School
  • South High School
  • Fairfax Junior High School

Tehachapi/Antelope Valley

12:20 to 12:35 p.m. (approximate)

  • Tehachapi High School, Tehachapi
  • Mountain View High School, Mojave
  • Mojave Elementary School, Mojave
  • California City Middle School, California City
  • Muroc Joint Unified School District, North Edwards
  • Boron Elementary School, Boron
  • Boron High School, Boron

For more information about the Edwards 70th Anniversary of Supersonic Flight celebration, go to 70ssf.412tw.us/

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