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Did You Hear the Fighter Jets Last Night?

by ARLnow.com April 14, 2011 at 5:30 am 8,892 76 Comments

NORAD conducted an air defense exercise over the Washington area late last night, startling area night owls who aren’t used to the sounds of fighter jets streaking across the sky at 1:00 a.m.

Although NORAD regularly conducts exercises in the D.C. region, for some reason this one seemed louder than others. On Twitter, we heard from Bethesda, McLean and Arlington residents who all heard the jets and wondered what was going on.

The exercise was actually scheduled for the night before, according to a press release, but was delayed a day due to inclement weather.

  • meh..

    unfortunately. what optimal timing they have. let’s wake everyone in a 20mile radius up at 1am so we can play with our war toys….smh.

    • BoredHouseWife

      it wasn’t that bad.

      • DonkeyKong

        Yea- stop whining.

  • Tabby

    What’s going on right now?! Canon fire near Oolumbia Pike?

    • 1234

      What the hell is that? I though construction wasn’t supposed to start before 7am??

    • James

      What was that old saying after the Civil War…the South will rise again? Just didn’t think it would be South Arlington….

    • Kat

      I heard those booms this morning, too, in Pentagon/Crystal city.

  • The Pikester

    I must be a deep sleeper. Zilch.

  • Charlie

    That was insane. While I appreciate the need for test I also appreciate the need for ‘notice’ and since we seem to alerts for everything it would have ben nice….

    • ArlGal

      I received an Arlington Alert about this on Tuesday:

      NORAD will be conducting their monthly live-fly exercise (Falcon Virgo) over the National Capital Region. The exercise is scheduled to take place over the National Capital Region; beginning midnight tonight (Tuesday) into the early Wednesday morning in the National Capital Region.

      • charlie

        i did not get that. i’ll check my multiple settings.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    I heard them and wondered what was going on. I wondered if something had happened – I recall after 9/11 the only airplanes we heard for about a month were Air Force fighters.

  • Runaway Train

    Anyone know where the loud booms are coming from this morning?

    • BoredHouseWife

      Arlington Mill construction.

      • Tabby

        Good grief! That’s not even that close to me. *yawn* so tired.

    • LBSki

      Woke me out of a dead sleep at 6:30. I was so frustrated, as it was my only morning to sleep in! Does anyone know if this is going to be an ongoing thing? I don’t consider myself super close to Arlington Mill (I couldn’t see any explanation), but I could hear these thuds loud and clear.

  • Lou

    I thought they were celebrating the CAPS WIN!!!!

    • +1

      F NY

      • CrystalMikey

        +1 trillion

        • DonkeyKong

          LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!

  • Ben

    Ha I was wondering what that was.

  • Blueloom

    “delayed a day due to inclement weather. ”

    Wonderful. Now we’ve let anyone who would attack us know that their best bet is to choose a rainy/stormy night.

    Seems to me that if NORAD needs to practice with fighter jets, they need to do it under all weather conditions.

    • MC 703


      The aircraft have plenty of bad weather capability. Most likely just wanted optimal conditions in this case.

      • FrenchyB

        Exactly – running a drill over a heavily populated area in low-visibility conditions isn’t worth the risk.

        • flight

          The Fighters can fly in all weather. But the volunteer Civil Air Patrol plays the role of the “badguys” They fly Cessna’s that can not fly under flight rules in the bad weather. We don’t want to kill volunteers just for practice.

  • Jack

    I wonder if the booms are coming from Utah park where they have been replacing lights – don’t know for sure

  • ArlGal

    Yes, they woke up my toddler.

  • TryTheTacos

    We heard this in Courthouse area just off of 50. The first noise was not a jet though – and it sounded like a high pitch motorcycle racing down 50 – but the noise wasn’t passing it took a while. Having lived next door to a Navy base for 18 years – I know the first sound I heard were not jets. We heard jets shortly after the first noise.

    • charlie

      a friend of mine near Arlington Hospital said she saw them circling over and over and dipping into dives.
      i agree the first noise sounded
      like a million sharp fingernails going down a blackboard.

    • mehoo

      The first noise was the flying saucer that the jets were chasing.

      • TryTheTacos

        Perhaps they were using a drone? Cause it was high pitch enough to sound like a remote controlled a/c

  • LabradorInArl

    Yes, we heard them (near Yorktown High School). Usually Arlington Alert gives us a heads-up when this is happening, but no notifications this time.

  • Curious George

    So that’s what I heard. I know I did hear jets moving pretty fast late last night. I am in north Arlington and don’t get much airplane noise. Since there was no abrupt BOOM after the jets passed I went back to sleep.

  • MC 703

    I was up at 12:30 in a high rise by 395 and Glebe and heard nada

  • Vargen

    Yup – woke me up out Bethesda way (over where smug reigns). Saw the lights in the air, definitely not moving like commercial jets.

  • Booms

    I am more curious about those loud booms this morning then the fighter jets also. It certainly wasn’t the airport bird cannon thing. I think we counted around 12 of them – first a set of 7 or 8 and then quite for about 10 minutes and then 4 or 5 more. It was odd.

  • CrystalMikey

    I <3 Jet Noise!

    • MC 703


      • DonkeyKong

        1 Million likes!

    • Just me

      They woke me up but I am glad they are there to keep me safe. I went back to sleep.

      • DonkeyKong

        Anytime the Blue Suiters and their Naval Aviation brethren get a chance to practice, Im good with it. I HEART jet noise.

  • Ren

    Yes, heard the fighter jets and yes they disturbed me slightly.

    • awwww

      Awww, no… they disturbed you slightly? Let me fluff your pillow and tuck you back in princess.

  • Martha

    Aurora Hills. It was not a good night if you needed to sleep more than 5 or 6 hours uninterrupted. Jets overhead at 1 PM were very loud and made a couple of passes. Then pile driving at 6 AM. Good question, 1234 …. no loud construction before 7 AM, right?

    • MyHood

      Right there with you. I thought we were under attack this morning.

  • Michael H.

    I didn’t hear anything unusual. With all the regular plane traffic in and out of National, and various military and rescue helicopters flying over the Potomac, all of those noises kind of blend together.

  • Southeast Jerome

    I use earplugs and they are wonderful

  • JimT

    I was awakened by unusually loud jet maneuvers and that is something that a mere press release (which I have since found out was for the previous night but postponed because of clouds) is inadequate to provide reasonable notice. It should be sent out with County weather/traffic updates so everybody or at least most folks know. This was poorly publicized and unnecessarily annoying.

    • DonkeyKong

      (World’s smallest violin being played)

  • Lou

    Pile driving at 6am? I should be so lucky. wut?

    • BallstonNOTBoston

      Lil Pile driving action before the long commute – never a bad thing!

    • Josh S


      • Josh S

        No, I’m not a prude. I put my comment in between HTML tag markers (by accident) and it disappeared, since it wasn’t HTML.

        *rim shot*?

        Is what I meant to post.

  • Josh S

    Back to the loud jet noises. Yes, they seemed worse than usual last night. I see on the Alerts that these exercises happen every few months. I can’t remember being waken up by them for a long time.

    Maybe Tom Cruise was pilot?

    I assumed the booms this morning were from Arlington Cemetery. No?

  • Dadof4va

    The noise heard this morning after 6:30 am was canon fire from the Old Guard practicing at the cemetary. Confirmed by a commanding officer at Ft Myer.

    • LBSki

      Really? There were A TON of them! Like close to twenty, total. Is this a regular thing?

      • Dadof4va

        Not done on a regular basis that is why it “freaks people out”, and it was 21 to be exact because they were practicing a 21 gun salute.

        • Booms

          But there wasn’t 21 consecutive booms. And shouldn’t the Cemetary folks be a little more up on community relations given all that is going on over there. They couldn’t have practiced at 11?

        • DB

          Isn’t a 21 gun salute usually done with 3 rounds of 7 guns? When do they use cannons?

    • This is correct. I just heard back from the military and will be doing a post on it.

  • Just me

    I heard the jets in Ballston and after that, I heard something that sounded like automatic gunfire, 2 sets. Anyone hear that? I am also sick of hearing the trash trucks collecting from dumpsters at 5:00am.

  • Lyon area

    Thanks to ArlNow for providing news. Last night I was surprised by the jets and checked other “news” websites but could find nothing. Finding no news, I hoped it was just practice.

    Jets flying over the capital of a nation involved in three wars seems like a topic the news/entertainment industry might want to mention.

  • North Arlington guy

    I watched them for a bit last night (their lights anyways). It was a small prop plane and two fighters playing cat and mouse with it mainly north of I66 into Maryland. There was also a chopper that may have been part of the exercise too. It was much louder than normal. You would see the 2 jets close fast on the plane and then quickly change direction which is when the noise seemed to be the loudest. Would not want to be one of the general aviation pilots that seems to wander into the controlled airspace every now and then. They would need a change of underwear if what I saw last night happened to them.

  • DonkeyKong

    This is actually pretty cool, and if you arent too uptight, try to stay up and watch it if you have a good view- follow the lights. The fighters came over first and moved out towards Bethesda, then came back in over Arlington and formed up over Mclean, where they loitered over Tyson’s for a while roughly 30-40 minutes- doing some pretty cool movements. The Coastie choppers were out over the river quickly after that- moving up and down near the Key Bridge and down to the Pentagon. The last sounds came around 1AM, as the fighters moved back out of the area- they were more than likely F-15/F-16s. It really was no worse than when they do Arlington Flyovers- JUUUUST a bit longer, but I love jet noise, so what do I know…

  • Steve

    I didn’t notice at all. In fact the hourly trumpeting at the fort is vastly more annoying than any flyovers, which in quite enjoy actually.

  • Sharon

    The loud noise woke me up at around 1:00am this morning. I have been had alien invasion dream after I felt sleep after that. Now I at least know that nothing serious happend.

  • tikigap

    I LOVE jet noise too, and I watch this airspace all the time. It was quite louder than usual, and very active. I live in North Arlington near Sycamore street and Williamsburg Blvd, and it was like watching an airshow sort of, but at night 😉

    I actually shot an iPhone video of it (pretty bad actually), but the commentary is kind of funny and if you are patient, you will eventually see some dancing dots which are the lights from the aircraft.

    I posted it on Youtube here:


    • Just Me

      I couldn’t see much but I liked you telling us what was going on, thank you. I think what they did was great!!! They have to do it at night because there is too much activity in the air during the day.

    • flight

      tikigap, you sound just like Donald Southerland, get much voice over work? 😀

  • Westover


    • Just Me

      + 1,000

  • John Andre

    They’ve been doing this periodically since 9/11/2001.

  • McKenzie

    I had my A/C on, that’s why I didn’t hear them.

    Right after 9/11, they did an unannounced exercise that was downright scary…hearing a plane directly overhead with full afterburners and then…silence…”WTF just happened??!”

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