Model rocket or worse? Joint Terrorism Task Force officials would like to know:
A Continental Airlines pilot reported being startled by what he described as a rocket that shot past his cockpit window Monday when the plane was about eight miles north of George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force are investigating the incident, which occurred about 10:30 a.m.
“We don’t know for sure what the object was. But we think it might be somebody doing model rocketing,” said Roland Herwig, an FAA spokesman. “The pilot saw the rocket and some people saw the rocket’s trail (of smoke).”
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.
Eight miles out of IAH should put that aircraft at a height that is out of range of most hobbyist-level model rockets. However, a high-powered model rocket (video) could have been involved here. They can reach substantially higher altitudes.
Seem like the HPR rocket theory is the favorite:
Neither said conclusively what the pilot saw was indeed a model rocket, but an FAA spokesperson told 11 News that it was likely a high-powered model rocket. It is a federal crime to launch a rocket of any sort without notifying the FAA.
The plane was at about 5,000 feet at the time of the sighting and the flight continued on to Cleveland.
Sources told 11 News that the flight was met by Continental officials and FAA investigators to interview the passengers and crew.
Part of that investigation included a FBI call to John Etgen, who is an officer with one of the local model rocket clubs in the area.
When the FBI told him what had been reported, the rocket enthusiast was shocked.
“This is completely outside of all of our safety codes and all of our practices. We actually behave a lot like visual flight rules pilots. This is if we can’t see clear airspace and already have permission to be in that air space we are not allowed to launch and we don’t,” said Etgen.