Incident Reports

Pilot Reports Rocket Fired Near Passenger Jet – Joint Terrorism Task Force Investigating

A Continental Airlines pilot told air traffic controllers that an object with a flaming tail and a trail of smoke flew in front of the plane shortly after takeoff, FBI officials said.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is involved in the investigation, but officials said they believe the object seen by the pilot just east of Houston’s airport on Monday was a model rocket.

Continental Airlines spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said Monday night that she could not discuss what was seen by the crew of Flight 1544. She would only say that the Boeing 737, with 148 passengers. left Bush at 10:17 a.m. and arrived in Cleveland, Ohio at 2:13 p.m.

She said the pilot made no diversionary maneuvers, and she added the plane was not damaged, and nobody was injured.

The FAA does not yet know how close the object came to the plane or what altitude it reached. “We will determine that by establishing a radar history,” Herwig said.
Officials are unsure how high the object flew or how close it came to the plane, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said.

The plane was never in danger and landed safely, said Scott Wilson, a spokesman for the FBI’s Cleveland office.

The FBI routinely looks into any suspicious activity that involves an airplane, bureau spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said.

“We don’t know if it was a rocket or what,” she said. “We will interview everyone and determine the validity of what was seen.”

Continental Airlines spokeswoman Kelly Cripe would not discuss what crew members saw.

Model rockets can reach as high as 40,000 feet, although enthusiasts are supposed to notify the FAA if a rocket is entering controlled airspace, said Robert Morehead of the Amateur Spaceflight Association in Houston.

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