Is this public announcement of an imminent investigation because the fact that a smoke trail was present and it’s a relatively safe bet that this was the result of an amateur rocketeer?
The main reason for the investigation if early media reports are to be believed isn’t to identify the UFO but rather to assess exactly how close the object was and if it posed any kind of threat.
No doubt model rocket enthusiasts will bear the brunt of this investigations as it has already been reported that those in and around the Houston area have already been approached and questioned by the authorities.
Or is this an all too convenient explanation? Unfortunately (and with the information available) as well as being the most convenient it's also undoubtedly the most likely....
HOUSTON -- The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration said they are investigating a report from a Continental Airlines pilot, who told air-traffic controllers that a possible model rocket with a flaming tail and a trail of smoke was flying ahead of the plane shortly after takeoff Monday.
Although the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is involved in the investigation, officials said they believe the object was a model rocket.
FAA spokesman Roland Herwig stated: " We don't know for sure what the object was. But we think it might be somebody doing model rocketing…..The pilot saw the rocket and some people saw the rocket's trail. Building rockets is a legitimate hobby, but hobbyists have to let the FAA know what they're doing. "
The pilot spotted the object flying at 5,000 feet about 11 miles east of George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston . Flight 1544 continued its trip from Houston to Cleveland after reporting the object to air traffic controllers. Scott Wilson, a spokesman for the FBI's Cleveland office, said in a story in The Plain Dealer that the plane wasn't in danger and landed safely. Continental Airlines spokeswoman Kelly Cripe declined to discuss what crew members had seen aboard the Boeing 737, which carried 148 passengers. The plane did not change course and was not damaged.
FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said::
"We don't know if it was a rocket or what…..We will interview everyone and determine the validity of what was seen. "
Robert Morehead, an engineer and president of the Amateur Spaceflight Association in Houston , said model rockets routinely can reach as high as 40,000 feet. He said model rocket enthusiasts are supposed to notify the FAA if a rocket is entering controlled airspace.
Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman in Washington D.C. told the Chronicle that model rockets have crossed paths with planes before but have never struck them. She also said that the Memorial Day holiday weekend was a good time for a launch.