The deep booming noise rattled Edward Rousar’s windows and shook his walls.
At first he thought a pipe in his home had burst, then he thought a massive explosion had rocked his hometown. Outside, his neighbors shuffled onto their front porches and peeked out their windows to stare at the night sky.
They were looking for signs of a plane crash.
There was no plane crash Thursday night. But an airplane did fly over the Inland Northwest very fast - faster than the speed of sound.
A rare spy plane known as the Blackbird shrieked across the night sky about 6 p.m., Air Force officials from California said Friday.
Emergency centers from Western Montana through North Idaho and into Eastern Washington were flooded with calls Thursday night from people wondering what caused the boom.
“It was just a deep, deep thud that shook the whole house,” Rousar said. “At first it was rather scary. I didn’t know what it was.”
The noise started the neighborhood dogs howling. Sheriff’s deputies roamed the streets looking for signs of trouble.
At that time, an SR-71 aircraft - known as a Blackbird - was flying about 70,000 feet above the Inland Northwest.
It’s one of only a handful of such planes in the United States, said Air Force Lt. Wilson Camelo.
They are also one of the fastest aircraft in the world with the ability to go three times the speed of sound or 2,000 mph, Camelo said.
In 1990 the planes were mothballed, but Congress this year shelled out $100 million to bring back a small fleet. The Air Force now has three Blackbirds at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Camelo said one of the planes went for a training run Thursday night. From California it headed to the Inland Northwest - not too far for a plane that can cross the United States in 68 minutes. The plane broke the sound barrier over the Inland Northwest, creating a sonic boom.
Camelo said a sonic boom is just “a byproduct of going supersonic. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil.”
After spending Friday wondering what the commotion was, Rousar was glad to hear that it was a Blackbird.
“That’s so cool,” he said, but added with a laugh, “It’s kind of a bummer if you’re a spy plane and everybody can hear you.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”