updated 7/7/2008 3:39:14 PM ET 2008-07-07T19:39:14

The FBI and federal aviation officials are investigating whether a model rocket with a flaming tail shot past a cockpit window of a Continental jet that had just taken off from Houston’s airport with 148 passengers on board.

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“We know that there was a sighting of an object,” FAA spokesman Roland Herwig said. “But we don’t yet know if it was a model rocket.”

The jet had just taken off on May 26 and was flying at 4,750 feet when the rocket was reported, records show. Flight 1544 continued to Cleveland after reporting the object to air traffic controllers. Officials have said passengers were not in danger and that the plane landed safely.

According to the FAA records, a dispatcher asked another pilot if he saw a “rocket launch” about “three to four miles out.” At the speed the Continental plane was flying, the aircraft was only about a minute away from a collision if the plane and object were four miles apart.

Model rockets are equipped with parachutes and other devices to bring them safely to the ground for reuse. They can be made of anything from cardboard to aluminum.

An investigation begun by the FAA and FBI has been slowed because the radar at George Bush Intercontinental Airport was unable to detect the object. The FAA said it would usually not pick up a small object on radar designed to track large planes.

FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said the bureau cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.

Continental Airlines spokeswoman Kelly Cripe declined to comment Monday.

FAA officials have said model rockets have crossed paths with planes before but have never struck them.

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