Does the US Air Force operate supersonic fighter jets over land?

I heard that the FAA banned supersonic flight over America due to the shockwaves creating loud booms and breaking windows on the ground, therefore the Concorde only operated over the Atlantic Ocean.

However, is the US Air Force allowed to operate supersonically over land? How about in training missions, or drills, or a real event? Did they go supersonic during 9/11?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You seem to be asking specifically about america but there was a recent incident in the UK in which jets went supersonic: bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41495677 . In particular the relevant quote is "A sonic boom could be heard in Suffolk after the Typhoon aircraft were authorised to travel at supersonic speed for the operation, the RAF said." $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Oct 16, 2017 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris It's fairly common for RAF interceptors to travel supersonically when responding to an incident 1, 2, 3; it also sometimes happens during training (often by the UK-based USAF, it seems) 4, 5, 6. $\endgroup$ Oct 16, 2017 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ seattletimes.com/seattle-news/… $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Oct 16, 2017 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ I don't have any substantiation for this but I am convinced that the FAA banned supersonic flight over America in order to limit the competitive effect of the Concorde on American aircraft manufacturers and American subsidized airlines. Nobody worried about loud booms and "broken windows" before 1976. $\endgroup$ Oct 16, 2017 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby: Yeah, I've seen other stories. I just figured the one from two weeks ago might be interesting because it is topical as well as answering the slightly different question of supersonic flights in non-us countries. Also its too late to fix it now, I know, but your first two links are duplicates. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Oct 16, 2017 at 22:22

2 Answers 2


Generally speaking, FAA does not allow supersonic flights over land except in special restricted military flight corridors. These are called High Altitude Supersonic Corridor (HASSC) in the US. For example, the one near Edwards AFB is:


NASA also mentioned about supersonic flights:

The F-18s flew in Edwards' High Altitude Supersonic Corridor at 32,000 to 40,000 feet for the supersonic runs.

However, I read that FAA's jurisdiction is only until 60,000 feet, hence above this altitude, there are no speed limits:

According to the FAA regulations the controlled airspace extends up to 60,000 feet. Anything flying above may fly at “unlimited speeds.”

During 9/11 attacks, US Air Force had its aircraft fly supersonically over mainland.

  • $\begingroup$ Presumably, they are allowed to go supersonic if there is an actual threat (not during training) $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2019 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ Thee are many other areas at low altitude as well, (although all are in Restricted airspace), designed for tactical training. as I recall, R-4807/4808/4809 northwest of Nellis AFB (Las Vegas), are supersonic training areas from surface to unlimited. these areas were (and still are, I would presume), heavily used by "Red Flag" Exercise operations. … And these areas are specifically designed for training. $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2019 at 14:03

They do, but only in certain restricted areas being used for training exercises. The ranges north of Nellis and east of Fallon NAS are commonly used for this. Supersonic flight over water in the warming areas offshore are common as well.

And, of course, during a national emergency.

It used to be much more common in the past. When I was a boy growing up in Idaho, I can remember our house being frequently rattled by loud sonic booms from SR-71s leaving Beale and headed into the northern United States and Canada on training missions. These days with the fewer aircraft in our arsenal designed for sustained supersonic flight plus a desire to be good neighbors to the local populace, supersonic flight has been curtailed quite a bit.

  • $\begingroup$ I remember the SR-71s leaving and arriving at Rome. People lost windows and a neighbor lost a hutch and dishes. But we weren't supposed to know about it. So we went to a park which was high enough to watch the arrivals and departures. Not all flights had booms, but my guess is that the booms happened when they got low on fuel and needed to arrive faster. Also my co-workers who flew out of Beale in SR-71s said that they did go supersonic over CONUS. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Oct 17, 2017 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ Sled drivers used to fly the jet up from Beale to Nova Scotia at Mach 3, then tank, thence accelerate back up to Mach 3 and blast down the Atlantic seaboard to Miami, turning west over the Gulf of Mexico into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada then finally back into California and landing at Beale AFB. Total flight time: Approx 3 hours. Total distance covered: Approx 5000 NM! $\endgroup$ Oct 17, 2017 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ Where in ID were you? I grew up in Pocatello and don't ever remember anything resembling sonic booms. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Sep 10, 2019 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ I grew up 50 miles north of there in Idaho Falls. This was back in the 1980s, mind you, and it often happened early in the morning there. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2019 at 14:27

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