Last Thursday afternoon I heard a sonic boom for the first time after two military jets were scrambled to intercept a helicopter taking Hunt Ball’s owner Anthony Knott home from Aintree. At the time I didn’t know what caused the loud bang over Coventry and other parts of the West Midlands, but early news reports suggested it was a minor earthquake. But I didn’t feel the earth move, and neither did anyone else I asked.
It soon emerged that jet fighters had been authorised to go through the sound barrier, and over the weekend the reasons for this were revealed. The Ministry of Defence said that two RAF Typhoons were scrambled after a helicopter gave out an emergency distress signal. The chopper was carrying Knott and his children home from Aintree to his farm in Dorset when they were caught up in a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster.
Knott said, “We left Aintree before the last race and were on the outskirts of Bath when suddenly two jets came out of nowhere, swooped up from underneath us, and sent the helicopter around 30 or 40 degrees. The pilot told us to hang on because we were going to catch the turbulence, and with that it was just like being inside a ping-pong ball, and even though we were strapped in I hit my head on the roof. It was lucky it was an ex-military helicopter because he said had it been an ordinary helicopter we would have been killed.”
The pilot, Knott’s friend Martin Perrett, landed safely, but was at a loss as to explain the apparent mayday call, as there had been no problems at all on the flight, and he had not sent out any call for help.
This had been Knott’s first ever helicopter flight, and given how shaken up his children were it has given him pause to think about whether to use that form of transport again. He said, “The next time I’ll drive to Liverpool I think.” What chance of calling his next horse Sonic Boom?