Sonic boom really worse than a clap of thunder?

It’s really too bad the Concorde dies tomorrow. What killed it most probably was its cost/performance ratio. But in the sixties, the US also killed the SST, and I read somewhere that it had a lot to do with the noise quotient.

I recall there was a huge flap about the sonic boom going off over airport neighborhoods. But can a sonic boom–I assume they are all about the same decibel level–really be that much worse than a clap of thunder?

Sure, 50 Concordes landing and taking off a day would be a pain, but one or two a day? What the hell was all the fuss about?

Sonic booms may not be the only concern. I saw the Concorde do several low-speed (subsonic) fly-by passes at the Cleveland Air Show some years ago, and it was probably the loudest thing I’ve ever heard in my life - far, far worse than a standard airliner and considerably worse even than any of the warplanes that also flew that day. It was a majestic and impressive bit of engineering and all, but I sure was glad they weren’t flying to Cleveland on a regular basis. It was a deep, rumbly sort of loud - you could feel the vibrations in your body even when the plane was a mile off.

I’m not an expert on the subject, but I don’t see any reason to believe that all sonic booms would be equally loud. It is said that the crack of a whip is from the tip breaking the sound barrier. It’s certainly true that part of the bang from many firearms is a sonic boom from the bullet exceeding the speed of sound. But those sounds certainly don’t carry over long distances the way aircraft sounds do.

they’re not equally loud, but they are loud. loud enough to shatter windows, so yes, that might have been a reason.

Extremely interesting to contemplate that the crack of a whip is a miniature sonic boom, let alone the report from a firearm.

I remember being at airports listening to the scream of old 707s, which were mind-bogglingly loud, but they lacked the basso profundo I am assuming accompanied the sound of the Concorde you report.

I only ever saw the Concorde taxiing to the gate in Dakar, but that has stayed with me and will for the rest of my life. Still, I would have liked to be part of a boom or two.

I have watched Concorde taking off a few times from Heathrow, from the safety of a plane in the queue. Every time the cabin crew told everyone to look out for it - there was always a lot of interest.

I can confirm that it was VERY loud. A splendid deep roar that just seemed to keep getting louder.

Shame it’s gone.


I remember sonic booms from my childhood, before they were banned, and they were pretty freaky.

If you have not heard a sonic boom, tonbo, then I’ll just say they are really not comparable to a typical roll of thunder. Three or four times in my life I have heard thunderclaps that approach the volume of the sonic booms I heard occasionally as a child.

So, the answer to your question is “Yes.”

It’s been a few years since I last heard a sonic boom (generally it has to be testing heading our way from White Sands or flights from Kirtland, etc.) but I must admit I’ve never been in a thunderstorm where that boom could shake the windows the way a man-made sonic boom can.

Same here. From what I remember they were pretty close to the sound of thunder (as you’d expect) but what might have made them more momentous was that, unlike thunder, they could come seemingly out of nowhere from a clear blue sky.

Yeah, but the sonic booms described here seem to be from military planes. Concorde is at 50-60,000 feet when it’s supersonic, perhaps the military aircraft are lower? I say this because I’ve heard Concorde’s boom (more of a ‘crack’, actually) from a ferry in the English channel. It didn’t seem that loud to me, and certainly wouldn’t have shaken any windows.

“Extremely interesting to contemplate that the crack of a whip is a miniature sonic boom, let alone the report from a firearm.”

The report from the firearm is not a miniature sonic boom. The bullet does go supersonic (usually - depends on the round of course) but you can’t hear it over the loud bang of the poweder exploding! That’s the bang you hear.
You can hear a ‘kind of clap’ from the bullet after the load bang from the firearm is finished.
It is exceptionally noticeable when the bullets are flying over/past your head! It’s not really loud though not even as loud as a whip. Guess mass or maybe size has something to do with that because the space shuttle’s boom during re-entry is freakin LOUD!

As they say it all depends. The Concorde is much bigger than any current supersonic military aircraft so it’s going to have a bigger shockwave - a louder sonic boom. Of all supersonic military aircraft I think only the XB-70 was comparable in size.

One of the coolest sonic booms I’ve heard is from an F-14 close to the USS Ranger. In the late summer of '83 we were stationed off the west coast of central america as a “show of force.” We did this by inviting various heads of state, etc. to the ship to watch a weapons demonstration, kind of an air show with live ammo. We’d launch planes then put folding chairs on the flight deck for the dignitaries to watch. An A-7 would strafe with the gun and make some splashes. An A-6 would drop twelve thousand pounds of iron bombs in the water and kill a few flying fish.

The climax was the supersonic pass by an F-14. A really close pass. Just a hair above flight deck level which is 65 feet off the water and not much more than a hundred feet away. I talked to one of the pilots who said he tried to pass the ship doing about a thousand knots IAS. It was kind of spooky to watch the plane barreling down on us at eye level with no sound. Little clouds would appear to “pop” into and out of existance around the plane as water vapor was squeezed out of the air by the shock wave. He’d pass teh ship and BA BAM!. Every single person in a chair was knocked over backwards. After the first day we didn’t put out folding chairs and let the dignitaries watch from the island.

On another occasion I was getting chow during the flyby. I was below decks in the hull, close to the waterline and I could feel the shockwave even surrounded by tens of thousands of tons of steel.

The first time I heard a sonic boom was working (as an engineer) in a hangar at Edwards AFB. I heard this crack, and in my “mind’s ear” I could only imagine that a neaby storage shed had exploded, or some other kind of freak explosion had happened on the ramp outside. It was loud enough to feel in your belly. I stopped what I was doing to look around for fire or flying pieces or whatever, but everybody else just looked at me - like “what’s the matter with you?”

They had grown so acustomed to the sound that they didn’t even notice.

Download, crank the volume and enjoyenjoy

My office is about a block away from the White House. On Sept. 11th while we were all trying to determine whether it was safer to stay at work or brave the Metro we heard a tremendous BOOM which rattled the windows. It turned out to have been a sonic boom from one of the jets that had been scrambled to protect D.C.'s airspace, but as you can imagine, we all thought we were dead.