A French fighter jet broke the sound barrier above Paris on Wednesday, as it scrambled to assist two commercial airliners that had both lost contact with air traffic control.
The warplane had climbed to around 34,000 feet when it was permitted to break the sound barrier, with the noise amplified thanks to cloud cover.
The sonic boom created by the speedy Dassault Rafale jet briefly interrupted the proceedings at the French Open, and sparked mass panic around Paris, as civilians struggled to understand the source of the sound.
Within minutes, French police had taken to Twitter to ease the minds of Parisians by revealing the true source of the troubling noise: a French fighter jet, setting off to the aid of two aircraft that had lost communication with air traffic control.
“A very loud noise was heard in Paris and in the Paris region. There isn’t an explosion, it’s a fighter plane which has broken the sound barrier,” police wrote on Twitter.
“Don’t clog up the help lines!”
According to France’s civil aviation authority, DGAC, the fighter jet was sent to locate a private Falcon 50 on a flight path between Cape Verde and Brussels, and an Embraer 145, operated by regional airline Amelia, on a flight between Brives and Saint-Brieuc, after both aircraft lost contact with air traffic control.
“A Rafale (warplane) based at Saint-Dizier, intervening to assist an airline which had lost contact, was allowed to break the sound barrier to join the airplane in trouble. It broke the sound barrier east of Paris,” Army spokesman Colonel Stephane Spet said in a statement.
Col Spet and the DGAC said that just seconds after the boom, the jets both re-established contact with air traffic control, and the DGAC said it would launch an inquiry into why contact had been lost.