A pilot with Continental Express reported that an object resembling a missile or rocket flew straight at his Embraer 145 regional jet and passed within 100 feet of it, shortly after takeoff from Houston, Texas, around 8 p.m. last Friday. The pilot told controllers that a “strange object” flew past as he was climbing through 11,000 feet, and it wasn’t visible on radar. The pilot didn’t take evasive action and the flight continued on to its destination. The local sheriff’s office told the Houston Chronicle that another Continental pilot had reported a similar incident in the area in May 2008. Officials were checking with local hobbyist clubs to see if any rockets had been fired in the area.
The FBI and FAA met to review the report with the pilot on Tuesday but no conclusions about the event were announced. The FAA and FBI will continue to investigate. “While we have no information to indicate there was a criminal act, we certainly do not rule anything out and certainly would not want to speculate on what it may or may not have been,” an FBI spokeswoman told the local media. In a separate incident, an electronic research device suspended beneath a parachute landed at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport last Thursday. “It’s a safety concern when something enters our airspace unannounced, in this case a six-pound box suspended from a parachute,” said airport spokesman Brian Sexton. “We want to share with the FAA for their consideration our concerns about how this is being managed.” The box was carried up to about 85,000 feet by an unmanned weather balloon and then dropped back to earth as part of a project operated by Space Data.