Air Force sonic boom rocks Lake Tahoe |

Air Force sonic boom rocks Lake Tahoe

Rob Bhatt

The SR-71 “Blackbird” reconnaissance plane is the highest, fastest flying aircraft in the world, the U.S. Air Force boasts. South Shore residents on Tuesday felt its power.

A Blackbird on a training mission out of Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California made its presence known through a sonic boom at about 11:20 a.m.

The plane and its crew were on a training mission, flying over the Sierra Nevada to a point about 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe, said Lt. Wilson Camelo, an Air Force spokesman stationed at Beale Air Force Base.

The sonic boom from a Blackbird can typically be heard and felt within a 30- to 40-mile radius that follows in the aircraft’s path.

Lt. Camelo said the plane was traveling at about 2,000 mph – three times the speed of sound -at an altitude of 80,000 feet – similar to speeds and altitudes during actual missions.

“What we do in training is what we would do in a crisis situation,” Camelo added.

Most commercial passenger airlines fly at 30,000 to 35,000 feet.

The Blackbird was introduced in the 1960s and taken out of service from 1990 to 1995 in favor of other military reconnaissance programs.

The plane is equipped with cameras and radar equipment to photograph areas with both conventional film and digital imagery that can be broadcast to base stations almost immediately.

Even though the plane can be detected on radar, it is virtually untouchable due to the high velocity and altitudes at which it flies.

Lt. Camelo said the Air Force has similar training missions above the Sierra Nevada scheduled for Aug. 14 and Aug. 19.

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