Strange nighttime howling jet aircraft

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4 years 11 months

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A couple of weeks back a most unconventional sounding jet aircraft flew low over Westbury in Wiltshire on a track which was heading toward the Lakenheath USAF base area. It flew over at 1500 to 2000 feet around 1.30 am three times that week. What was so weird was the jet noise. It sounded like a very loud banshee howl which continued until it faded in the distance. On one day (Tuesday) it flew directly overhead (waking me again) and this time as it passed my overhead the howl changed to a muted V1 pulse-jet sound. It had military nav lights (i.e. the white tail light turned on and off but did not strobe). I would say it was flying at maybe 200kts. I would say if it was on a long-haul flight maintaining a small circle course it would have come from southern USA to pass overhead on that track.

I am a former civilian pilot and very experienced in what's up there and I can say it was not a conventional jet engined aircraft. It was not a B2 either. My first thoughts were the new British Aerospace stealth drone that looks a bit like an F117 that surely must be test flying in UK airspace by now (it was first tested in outback Australia last year). But the sound of this drone is 'normal' jet from what I gather listening to the video of it on the internet.

Someone else who was awoken by this unusual aircraft came to the same conclusion it may have been something really exotic from Arazona's secret skunkworks bases on a hypersonic, cross-pond test flight to lakenheath maybe. Aurora or something like that? Anyone know of unusual traffic into Lakenheath a week or two back in the dead of night?

Sound may be heard here: https://youtu.be/cvxDC5eNYfs

Original post

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6 years

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Reheat can cause this sound, called buzz. The F104 for instance, was notorious for that sound.
I have experienced a Jaguar with reheat buzz, it made a god-awful sound as it flew over us.
We questioned the pilot when he landed but he hadn't noticed it himself.
Seeing as the F117 and the B2 don't have reheat I think you can rule those a/c out.
Btw, Aurora is alas, a myth. Project Aurora was about something totally different..

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F-4E's made the worst howl.

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Not anything like any conventional jet aircraft. Heard most of them at some time or other. Sounded a bit like an A310 descending as throttles are retarded but hugely louder. I was under the impression Aurora was a project name for one or more hyperspace aerospace craft in the last couple of decades and there are definitely some unorthodox projects out there now, photographs to prove it. The military-industrial complex doesn't go after something for 20 years without something to show (or in this case to hide). IMHO :)

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Without hearing the sound it is hard to distinguish it from other jet noise. I recall hearing a pulsing and fading jet sound at night in and around Boscombe Down in the early 90s, but have since managed to explain it away in lots of ways (although at the time I was convinced it was very different from the usual night operations).

There is no reason it couldn't have been something different from the usual suspects but it will be hard to get more information I suppose?

For what its worth I recall watching a video of the RQ170 UAV and thinking it howled....

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Mobile phone sound recording? :eagerness:

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F-4E's made the worst howl.

F104 and F4 = J79. The F4 K/M had much better engines........

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For what its worth I recall watching a video of the RQ170 UAV and thinking it howled....

Bad intake? The HP Victor K2 would screech from the intake when ground running. Stationary and above 100% especially slam checks, they were loud. Taking off was less noticable.

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I have the sound on video! I made a video to grab the sound after it had passed over.

I posted it to youtube in case anyone wants to hear it.

https://youtu.be/cvxDC5eNYfs

Bear in mind this sound was recorded maybe 20 seconds after it passed over my home.

It was about 3 miles downtrack when this sound was recorded so the apparent doppler effect you can hear is not normal doppler but actually part of the strange engine effects.

I was asleep when it went overhead but had decided to try to video it this time and so it took me 20 seconds to wake up and get the camera out of the window. The sound must have woken the whole town it was so very haunting and loud. We regularly get Chinooks and Merlins overhead at 1000 feet at night but this sound was much more noisy and disturbing.

(Sorry for not posting the sound earlier. I thought it had gotten deleted when I updated my system to Windows 10 and only now found the mp4 file.)

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An engine's inlet guide vanes will cause a howl with the throttle near idle and aircraft in a descent.

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An engine's inlet guide vanes will cause a howl with the throttle near idle and aircraft in a descent.

Can you explain?

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Exact dates would be helpful. Did you also check on flight tracking software?

Are you referring to Monday 3rd, Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th August?

Profile picture for user mrmalaya

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It does have a surging/pulsing quality beyond what would be associated with a Vulcanesque screech. It also sounds big, is that an accurate assessment in your view VeeOne77?

If there is a date for the incident then TEEJ may be able to shed some light on what was acknowledged to be up at that time.

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It was 01:15 on night of 4th/5th and 01:38 on night of 6th/7th August. Also flew past a few days before the 4th and I got a look at it through binoculars. It was not descending but in level flight at about 1500 - 2000 feet. It does sound big, mrmalay, but it looked smaller than a B2 to me. And it seemed to be no higher than 1500 feet. (Were it higher on that day it would have flown through the Salisbury Plain danger area which goes up beyond the height any aircraft can fly at that point.) The shape I saw the first day (when it flew past about 10pm) was blocky at the front. A bit like an F117 really and not sleek. But I could not really see it clearly except for the military on-off style bright nav lights (and no strobes). I doubt it would have shown up on Flight24 as no military traffic seems to appear there.

My reasoning for it being a new type of secret aircraft was purely the noise and its routing. It never went outbound southwest but on all three occasions was seen on the same course coming sw to ne and this track would have taken it to the military bases in the east of the UK, Lakenheath / Mildenhall complex in a direct line. I wondered if it was something secret on a long test flight coming out of the Nevada range to a USAF base in Europe and the UK would be perfect as there would be no overflights of France or other Euro countries. The low altitude I thought may have been so it would be able to stay off of the ATC system as airspace for the London Control Area begins 30 miles up track at 5000 feet upward. So if I were flying this route I might choose to descend below airspace and VFR it to destination just on the principle that the less I appear officially the better. A route like this would need no ATC flightplan. And nobody would 'see' it in the dead of night, just hear the haunting howl and some aircraft lights going overhead. I wanted to record the approaching sounds as it is most awesome to hear but it hasn't flown over again after that one week. So the sound I posted here is a whimper going away in the distance. and what's weird is that when you hear the sound dissapear on the video this was when it simply faded out in reality. The sound doesn't seem to have much range to it and appears and dissapears within maybe 5 miles of the listener. Guess I will never know.

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Have you had a trawl around the net and youtube to see if you can correlate it with other incidents? There is a lot of rubbish on youtube, but some videos are certainly interesting from that perspective.

Also thought it worth posting this 1992 vintage article on a similar subject with input by one William Sweetman:

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920922&slug=1514421

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Stories about doughnuts on a rope contrails, I have actually witnessed that event once in the Netherlands. It was simply a normal commercial a/c that flew by. Something to do with the altitude, wind and weather conditions changed the line to an 'Aurora' trail after the a/c was long gone. As for the pulsating sound, well I have heard normal a/c make those sounds, again, not every time. I remember a Buccaneer making a pulsating sound, it had just swallowed a few seagulls though..

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Hi Robbiesmurf,

I agree with you that its quite easy to look up and see "doughnuts on a rope" being produced by airliners. The original balls on a rope are much harder to replicate however and are not the only evidence that something drastically different was operating out of the Western US during that timeframe.

God knows what noise it would make if it swallowed a seagull though!

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The SCRAM jet (hypersonic wedge with external combustion engine) was long being discussed in the '70's. It was explained to us during our technical training in 1976 about the basic working. Heat resistant materials, insulation and fuel however......
Hypersonic Aurora does not exist though. NASA have done a widely publicised experiment using a disposable test unit.

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The more I read about how fast and high the US was aiming in the early 60s the harder I find it to write off a hypersonic aircraft in operation during the dying days of the Cold War.

Whether the subsequent change in priorities proved too much for the programme/programmes I don't know, but not acknowledging them prevents the opposition from getting to grips with the current state of the art doesn't it?

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4 years 11 months

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MrMalaya's link is interesting. One sentence says, "Scott, who has heard engine sounds at night from his home near Edwards Air Force Base, says they are unlike any other jet noise. "The pulser is distinctive enough that it wakes people up," he said." That sounds so what happened to me. The noise is so unlike a conventional jet turbine that is wakes you up almost in fear. And the strange noise continues after it passes over, unlike 'normal' jet turbines which quickly turn to a lower growling noise as they recede. i remember Concorde departing Heathrow twice a day in the 1970's and when it was in the climb from FL60 the engines would be heard up to five minutes after it had passed overhead. A long, never ending growling roar. This aircraft, if that is what it was, was all howling and echoing and after maybe 30 seconds it just faded out quickly. So, although I am a civilian-pilot person and know very little about the latest military stuff, I am sure that this was some unclassified and secret design. I think jet turbines are pretty conventional even in stealth aircraft but this must be some new innovation and the pulsing sound I heard on the occasion it flew directly overhead was so unusual that if that was the only noise that night I might have half expected to have seen something 'not of this world' in the sky.

I had hoped someone near USAF Lakenheath might have heard this aircraft going in there but maybe it went elsewhere. It was definitely an exotic aerospace vehicle and not a drone or a seagull-sucking Buck! The EE Lightning was made some interesting noises too, as I recall. But all conventional turbine sounds really. I have seen stuff on the internet showing unusual aircraft contrailing over Mexico recently. Looked like a sleeker version of a B2 with long wingtips. So I have no doubt the billions of dollars that have gone into black aerospace projects in the last 20 years must have created something. Do you think this might be a replacement for the U-2 and SR-71 spy aircraft? They must have something like that in the 'skunk-works' as satellites cannot always get the intel.

Sarah