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Mysterious jet noise is a cloudy issue

Loud noise confuses residents earlier this month; experts say we may never know what it wa

Posted: May 22, 2010 7:34 p.m.
Updated: May 23, 2010 6:55 a.m.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane.

No, wait.

That ear-splitting sound heard a couple of weeks ago could have been any of several possible aircraft.

Aviation experts are looking into at least one formal complaint of a noisy aircraft heard screaming through the Santa Clarita Valley on May 4. And they said any one of several agencies could be responsible for the noisy jet.

“We may never know precisely what aircraft it was at that time that caused that sound,” said Air Force Lt. Col. George Covin, one of two military representatives watching the skies and acting as regional liaison for the Federal Aviation Administration. It could be (the U.S.) Navy. It could be (the U.S.) Marines.”

At about 8:30 p.m. that day, some Santa Clarita residents heard what may have been a low-flying aircraft. One of those residents filed a formal complaint with officials at Edwards Air Force Base.

Dennis G. Shoffner, civil outreach director for the base, is the man who handles such complaints.

“I’m the guy who gets all the complaints, and I’m also the guy who gets all the requests to fly over this area, so I get it from both sides,” he said Friday.

“Here’s the deal,” he said. “Allegedly, on the fourth of May, a jet aircraft was flying doughnuts around Santa Clarita at about 8:30 p.m. and ... was flying lower than usual.

“We did have a Jester 02 that left restricted Air Force space at 8:39 p.m.,” Shoffner said, referring to a jet logged in with Edwards Air Force Base slated to conduct a return test flight to the West Coast.

Despite the jet being referred to as “Jester,” it performed no illegal, tricky or reckless aerial maneuvers such as flying in circle patterns commonly called “doughnuts,” Shoffner said.

“It flew according to flight instruction rules according to the FAA, traveling at 10,500 feet to Point Mugu and made a return flight at 9,500 feet by reverse routing,” he said, pointing out that the jet returned along its initial route.

“We can only speak for our aircraft,” he said, adding it is not absolutely certain that Jester 02 is the aircraft that prompted the complaint.

“It could be Navy or the Marine Corps,” he said. “I cannot sit here and say, ‘This is the aircraft those people saw.’”

Shoffner received no report or complaint about a second aircraft that night, as some of the noise observers claim.

Shoffner suggested contacting two flight monitoring agencies to see if any other aircraft — in addition to the Jester flight — were in the area at that time.

One of those agencies is the FAA Western District monitored by Lt. Col. Covin.

The other agency watching traffic in the skies over the Santa Clarita Valley is the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office in Van Nuys.

Messages left with the FAA office were not returned Friday.

Covin said Southern California is a busy area for military flight training. It could have been any one of a number of services that flew the noisy aircraft.

“It’s not enough to have the time and place,” he said. “We look at all the military aircraft in that area and try to determine what unit might have been involved.”




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