“Did you hear it?” That was the question people living in the Washington, DC, metro area asked one another on a sunny June Sunday afternoon into Monday morning (May 4-5) following a very loud and – in some regions – earth-shaking sound heard in Maryland, the District, and Northern Virginia. It wasn’t a bird but a plane, as the well-known Superman catchphrase goes. Technically speaking, American F-16s scrambled to intercept a twin-engine Cessna 560 Citation V jet that flew into restricted airspace over the nation’s capital region.
A total of six Top Guns from Joint Base Andrews and two other locations were set in motion because the private plane was unresponsive after multiple attempts to contact the pilot. The Cessna took off at a municipal airport in Elizabethton, TN, and was supposed to land at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport. Oddly, the aircraft reached New York but then did a 180-degree turn and headed back toward the DC area. Then things began to get more sketchy.
Officials at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) issued a statement on the afternoon of May 4 acknowledging the incident. Authorities maintained the military did not shoot the plane out of the skies. Still, social media exploded with all manner of intrigue and conspiracy theories about the crash that took the lives of four people – including a 2-year-old and the pilot.
Some aviation experts suspect a loss of cabin pressure could have rendered all on board unconscious, which would account for the lack of communication and responses to flares sent up by the F-16s. We consulted former Air Force pilot and Liberty Nation National Security Correspondent Dave Patterson, who posited the incident might best fit in with the philosophy of Occam’s razor – the simplest explanation is usually the best. “It is always pure speculation as to what exactly happens in the cockpit, but a good bet is that the pilot had an insidious decompression at 34,000 feet, and when it was recognized by the alarm going off, he would have had less than a minute to set a course before hypoxia set in.”
Hypoxia is the deprivation of oxygen to the body. When the brain doesn’t have enough oxygen, reasoning and judgment suffer, and the person flying the jet is quickly rendered unconscious. “What I surmise happened is that the pilot turned the aircraft when he/she suspected a problem,” Patterson said, “and then no longer had the capacity to control the aircraft.”
Once out of fuel, the plane would descend rapidly and crash. This is precisely what multiple news sources, including USA Today, reported: “Flight tracking sites showed the jet suffered a rapid spiraling descent, dropping at a rate of more than 30,000 feet per minute before slamming into the George Washington National Forest [in Virginia].” The crash reportedly occurred just before 4 p.m. ET.
F-16s – The Sound of Sonic
Once the jet fighters were given the authority to fly at supersonic speeds, the boom was inevitable, but it was unsettling for many of those who live in the Swamp. The loud noise from the F-16s was heard in the DC Metropolitan area around 3:10 p.m., prompting many to consult social media. Jared McQueen, who lives in Fairfax Station, VA, posted a video on Twitter that recorded the boom and his dog’s reaction to it.* By Monday afternoon, McQueen’s tweet had been watched more than a million times.
Since the Pentagon was hit on 9/11, area residents have had a subtle but palpable apprehension regarding possible future calamities. This uneasiness is natural for those living in DC, which locals often term Ground Zero. Doomsday preppers in the capital and surrounding areas often discuss “safe spaces” – where they will go in the case of an impending nuclear attack. And it is not uncommon for those who can afford it to have real estate in other parts of the country “just in case.”
*McQueen permitted the video to be republished so long as his @HomewardTrails rescue pup Rocket was mentioned.
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