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lessgravity

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Here we go again

"LIBERTY, Texas - Investigators in Texas say a flying object that narrowly missed a Continental Express plane last month may have been a large model rocket.

The jet's pilot and co-pilot spotted the object and a long white vapor trail shortly after they took off from Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport on May 29. The plane was bound for Greenville, S.C.

Pilots spotted the object at roughly 16,000 feet. It was about 5 feet to 7 feet long....."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31146205/from/ET/
 

dwmzmm

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Yes, it's been all over on the news here in the Houston area for the past week. Nearly the same thing happened around Memorial Day Weekend in 2008, pretty close to the same area, too.
 

MarkM

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The FAA should have records of what club in that area has a waiver that high or any waiver for that matter. Seems to me, that's a high waiver for close proximity to a major airport. Of course, if they are illegally flying without one, that's a problem.
 

jadebox

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Please don't assume that there was a rocket involved at all. It's much more likely that the pilots saw something else and mistakenly decided it was a rocket.

-- Roger
 

MysticalRockets

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Years ago, we called them UFO's...

Now everything is a "terrorist missile".

Sorry, but I've had the cops called on me because I was a "terrorist shooting missiles at planes".

Not too long ago, it was communists.
 

dwmzmm

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The FAA should have records of what club in that area has a waiver that high or any waiver for that matter. Seems to me, that's a high waiver for close proximity to a major airport. Of course, if they are illegally flying without one, that's a problem.
From last year's incident, I did get a call from the FBI (was on my answering machine, but I wasn't available). One of my buddy and fellow rocketeer who
heads a high school NAR Section also got a call.

Our club's waiver is only good to 7,000 feet and we fly down in Needville, TX,
well away from Houston's big airports. Before the new FAA rules, I always called in a NOTAM the day before any of our launches, even if we had no HPR
flights scheduled.
 
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MarkM

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Please don't assume that there was a rocket involved at all. It's much more likely that the pilots saw something else and mistakenly decided it was a rocket.

-- Roger
Oh, I wasn't. And you're right. It was most likely something else. I was merely pointing to the fact that IF a high power rocket launch was being conducted in the area, the FAA would know about it.
 

SpartaChris

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I think it's much ado about nothing. There is almost a part of me that feels like someone really wants it to be a rocket, but that's a tinfoil hat kind of discussion.

In discussing this topic, I heard a former pilot say that, from that altitude, there's no way they'd be able to tell if it was actually a rocket or not unless it either a) Had a REALLY long smoke trail, or b) literally bounced off the cockpit.

If it was a rocket able to be seen at that altitude, you bet your behind someone from the ground also had to have seen it given the smoke trail it would have left behind would have had to have been massive. And since it didn't bounce off the cockpit window, I'm guessing this pilot had something in his eye or something..
 

spacecadet

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Government spend billions trying to hit aircraft with missiles and we're supposed to get within a few yards for £100.
That's going to happen.
 

Mikus

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Ha ha. Get this:

'Investigators will use a helicopter to search this area on Monday for any sign of the rocket. “If it had a parachute, as some do, it might have gotten entangled in the trees or something,” DeFoor said.'


LOL. Comment as you see fit.
 

mach7

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I've resisted getting involved in this discussion.

But...

I can't imagine seeing a small rocket at any kind of altitude. By small I mean less than 5-10 ft. A smoke trail will help, but I still don't think so.

I can have trouble seeing a light aircraft at times.
 

MaxQ

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"a flying object that narrowly missed a Continental Express plane last month may have been a large model rocket."

Narrowly missed?

What, exactly, does this statement mean?
 

Pantherjon

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I know that the FAA will consider a 'near miss' if two planes are within 1,000 feet altitude and within one mile seperation - unless they have changed it..
 

Chrisn

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Im guessing it was a 2 stage high power rocket, explains the smoke trail at that altitude.
 

Chrisn

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I find it funny how many people have stated this

"And this rocket only flew 3000-4000 feet up in the air."

In response to this being posted
http://www.break.com/index/worlds-largest-model-rocket.html

.

"Here's a quote from Popular Mechanics:
"All told, the array generated enough force to chuck a Volkswagen more than a half-mile—and sent the Saturn V more than 4440 feet straight up. It was arguably the most audacious display of raw power ever generated by an amateur rocket."
So the above states 4,400 ft. is audacious/record setting and investigators are saying a plane flying 4X higher than this at 16,000 were observing a model rocket? Oh no my friends, stay thirsty! Signed, the most interesting man in the world"

.

factsr2intince4you wrote:
beings the government knows most folks dont know the spec's on model rockets , they can play off what they wish...
1st of all , a model rocket flying that high would need special permissions to fly on that day , 2nd , it would look as big as a missile carrying alot of fuel . such a model rocket would stand 10 to 20 feet tall , ( as round as a 5 gallon bucket ) .
from the time it left it's launch pad , there would be a smoke trail so owner could track it easyer . 3rd , the parachute would of been easy to see in the skies , even the pilot of the plane would of been able to pin-point it's area and radio it back to a control tower...
now... how many folks really trust a government that cant lie worth a flip on covering something up ?

.

The sound of that thing taking off had to be incredible, because I don't believe there are silencers available for rockets.

.

Some people need to think logically. Ive come to the conclusion its more than likely a figure of the pilots imagination.
 
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jadebox

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Im guessing it was a 2 stage high power rocket, explains the smoke trail at that altitude.
There's little chance a rocket was involved.

Generally, it takes some support to launch a large, high-power rocket.
That means several people will be involved. So, if a rockety was involved, we'd have to believe that no one talked about it before or since.

Large rockets are, well, large and quite visible on the ground. What are the chances that someone was able to launch a large rocket, stir up such a commotion in the air, yet not be noticed on the ground?

What happened to the launch site and the rocket afterwards? If it came
down under the parachute, it should have been quite visible. If it came
in ballistic, it should have left a hole in the ground.

What are the chances that the launch happened at just the right time,
location, attitude, altitude, etc. to come near the airliner?

How likely is it that the pilots in an aircraft moving hundreds of miles an hour could spot and identify a relatively small rocket? If someone onboard the plane did see it, it's unlikely they'd give an accurate account of it's appearance, size, or distance. The relative speed would be too great to get a good look and there are no landmarks in the sky to use to judge size and distance.

Since rockets very seldom come near airplanes, but people often
misinterpret what they see, Occam's Razor dictates that we should assume
that the pilots were wrong about seeing a rocket. Unless extraordinary
evidence is revealed in support of the rocket hypothesis, the mundane
explanation is the only one we should accept.

-- Roger
 

shreadvector

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I know that the FAA will consider a 'near miss' if two planes are within 1,000 feet altitude and within one mile seperation - unless they have changed it..
I am postiive that the FAA stopped using the silly term "near miss" many, many years ago and has used "Near Collision" to accurately describe aircraft that are involved in potentially dangerous proximity incidents. A result of the George Carlin routine. I am certain of this since I saw him in las Vegas and he was still using this bit in his act and I knew that the FAA had changed the term already and the bit was not as funny anymore (to me - the rest of the audience were not aware of the change and still found it funny). I'm pretty sure I ate some Jumbo Shrimp on that visit to Vegas.


Google it.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=faa near collision definition&btnG=Google+Search
 

tbzep

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1. It doesn't take a big rocket to hit 16k ft. A well designed minimum diameter 54mm K powered rocket would get near that mark if it had a near vertical flight, and a 54mm "L" would definitely bust 16k. This size rocket would most definitely not be noticed on the ground from 16k if it was a loner instead of a crowd.

2. Even though a smaller rocket could easily reach this height, I seriously doubt the pilots actually saw a rocket. A few years ago, this would have been a UFO (not reported so they wouldn't seem crazy). With all the publicity of HPR launches today, they had it in their minds that this was a "model rocket" so that's what their mind told them they saw.
 

jadebox

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1. It doesn't take a big rocket to hit 16k ft. A well designed minimum diameter 54mm K powered rocket would get near that mark if it had a near vertical flight, and a 54mm "L" would definitely bust 16k. This size rocket would most definitely not be noticed on the ground from 16k if it was a loner instead of a crowd.
The pilot allegedly described seeing what I'd consider a large rocket. Of course, we don't know what was really said. In the earlier incident, the reporter from the Houston Chronicle said that the pilot said things that aren't actually in the transcript the paper later published.

2. Even though a smaller rocket could easily reach this height, I seriously doubt the pilots actually saw a rocket. A few years ago, this would have been a UFO (not reported so they wouldn't seem crazy). With all the publicity of HPR launches today, they had it in their minds that this was a "model rocket" so that's what their mind told them they saw.
I don't think the publicity of HPR has anything to do with it. It's the mindset since September 11. Pilots are, naturally, concerned about possible terrorist attacks. So, they are more inclined to see "rockets" or "missiles" than "flying saucers" now.

Of course the FAA and other authorities have to investigate these reports. But, it's irresponsible of the media to continue to speculate without pointing out the obvious - that it's unlikely that a rocket was actually involved.

There are two questions the reporters have failed to answer that are very important:

1) How often do pilots make reports of seeing rockets near their aircraft?
2) How often do these reports turn out to be true?

My guess is that the answer to question 1 is "quite often." The answer to question 2 is, of course, "never."

-- Roger
 
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mach7

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In answer to question 1- I would think 2 times in the last year. NOT quite often. Any time a commercial passenger plane pilot reports seeing a "rocket" you can bet it will make the news.

Out side of a war zone I don't know of any pilot that has reported seeing a rocket.
 

jadebox

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In answer to question 1- I would think 2 times in the last year. NOT quite often. Any time a commercial passenger plane pilot reports seeing a "rocket" you can bet it will make the news.
Well, we know for a fact that the only time it makes the news is when a certain reporter in Houston hears about it from her contact. I'm sure pilots are asking controllers about stuff they see in the sky all the time.

And, we don't know for sure that the pilot actually reported seeing a rocket. During the last incident, several things the pilot was reported as saying didn't match the transcript later published by the paper.

BTW, I asked her and the reason the reporter is so sure a rocket was involved (a "model rocket" no less) is that the pilot is former military. So, in her opinion, he can't be mistaken. That's the same argument UFO believers use ......

The local investigation of the previous incident apparently began when a reporter started calling authorities to ask about the report. I'm not sure that the actions of the FBI and other authorities in the area weren't in reaction to that inquiry rather than from somewhere official since I could find no record of the incident filed with the FAA. That could be the case this time, also.

-- Roger
 
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tbzep

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I don't think the publicity of HPR has anything to do with it. It's the mindset since September 11. Pilots are, naturally, concerned about possible terrorist attacks. So, they are more inclined to see "rockets" or "missiles" than "flying saucers" now.
It's still publicity, regardless of the trigger. Schumer had HPR all over the world news (CNN, FOX, etc.) for several weeks after 9/11. Pilots routinely see the FAA waivers for HPR if their routes carry them near any of the often used launch sites. It's all over youtube, slashdot, and much more. The big Saturn V launch was even in a lot of mass media outside the usual internet sources. If not for publicity, pilots might not even know rocketry exists beyond Estes motors, thus their reports might say "possible shoulder launched missile" instead of "large model rocket".
 

jadebox

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If not for publicity, pilots might not even know rocketry exists beyond Estes motors, thus their reports might say "possible shoulder launched missile" instead of "large model rocket".
I just want to point out that we really don't really know what the pilot said. Last time, the paper reported that the pilot claimed a "model rocket" had "shot past" the cockpit. The actual transcript revealed that the pilot had only asked if there was a rocket launch in the area.

-- Roger
 

tbzep

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I just want to point out that we really don't really know what the pilot said. Last time, the paper reported that the pilot claimed a "model rocket" had "shot past" the cockpit. The actual transcript revealed that the pilot had only asked if there was a rocket launch in the area.

-- Roger
Yep. It's perfectly fine for the media to outright lie in order to sell their product. :(
 

georgegassaway

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Well, it’s not anyone wearing tinfoil hats. Unless it is the “blanking fool” who launched this rocket.

It REALLY HAPPENED. There is some outlaw idiot (or worse) out there doing this, for real.

I am copying below a post made by Trip Barber tonight to the NAR sections list, and by direct e-mail to NAR members in Texas.

I was tempted to post it as a new thread. But figure it would be best for that to be done by Trip Barber himself or by some other NAR official.

- George Gassaway

>>>>>>>> Message from Trip Barber: “NAR Safety Bulletin”

I sent the following e-mail bulletin this evening to all of the NAR members in Texas for whom we have e-mail addresses.

Trip Barber
NAR President

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear NAR Member in Texas -

On Friday, May 29, 2009 at 8:09 PM a Continental Express passenger jet on departure from Houston airport experienced a near-miss from a rocket that appeared to be coming within 100 feet or so of the aircraft's nose -- at 11,000 feet. Both pilots saw it clearly and described it as roughly 6 feet long , white, with triangular/delta fins, not smoking, and passing through a horizontal orientation at that moment (presumably coming to apogee). The pilots were, naturally, extremely alarmed and thought they were going to strike it. Independently an observer on the ground a few minutes later phoned in a report of seeing a two-piece cylindrical object falling from the sky (which was largely cloudless). No one has reported seeing or hearing a liftoff. This incident occurred southeast of the small town of Mont Bellvieu, TX, which is about 30 miles east of Houston. This is almost the same spot where there was a rocket-near-airliner incident on Memorial Day weekend 2008.

There is no doubt that this event really happened, and that a rocket similar in size and characteristics to a sport rocket was involved. We have no idea if the flier was a member of the NAR, of TRA, or of neither. We do not know if a commercial rocket motor bought from a vendor by a certified user or a privately-made motor was used. Based on the rocket size and peak altitude this was probably a K or L-size motor. We do not know the motives of the flier, but since the weather was clear they probably saw the airliner coming and this was presumably deliberate.

This incident has the undivided attention of the FAA and the FBI. It has been in the press several times. This is not good for our hobby. This represents completely unacceptable behavior by whoever did it, a violation of FAA regulations (no rocketry waiver was in effect anywhere near this point), a violation of both NAR and TRA Safety Codes, and an act of reckless endangerment of public safety.

We proudly (and correctly) tell public safety officials and federal agencies that we are a self-regulating group of responsible safety-oriented rocketeers, and we have earned the trust of most federal and local agencies over the years by behaving exactly this way. We must do everything that we can to help the investigating agencies find the individual who commited this act. If you are contacted by a federal investigator asking for information, please cooperate. If you know or hear anything at all that might be a clue as to who did this, please contact the FAA's principal investigator on this case:

Randy E. Burke
Aviation Safety Inspector - Operations
FAA Houston FSDO
281-929-7013
Randy.E.Burke@faa.gov

Please circulate the word among everyone you know who flies high-power rockets (in whatever organization and of whatever type) that this incident happened, and ask them to report any information that they might have.

This has got to stop, and we have got to help.

Fly safely.

Trip Barber
NAR 4322
NAR President
 

jadebox

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It REALLY HAPPENED. There is some outlaw idiot (or worse) out there doing this, for real.
While it is important that we remain committed to safety, It's very unlikley that a rocket was actually involved.

The likelyhood of one of our rockets coming close to an aircraft, intentionally or not, is so remote that someone would have to launch many of them to get one as close to an aircraft as the reports allege this "rocket" did. For two such events to ocurr in the same area in a year, someone would have to have launched thousands of rockets. That would not have gone unnoticed.

It's important that we don't get caught up in the UFO craze.

-- Roger
 
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RangerStl

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I'm with you, Roger. The chances of someone actually getting that close are so slim that it's not even funny.

However, it only takes one lucky shot to ruin someone's day. In my mind, there are three possibilities:

#1 It was deliberate and, no matter how unlikely, the launcher was extremely "lucky".

#2 It was unintentional (some dummy flying in the wrong place) and the launcher was extremely "unlucky".

#3 The published media report bears absolutely no resemblance to the actual occurrences.

Number three is by far the most probable explanation, but numbers one and two are at least possible (no matter how unlikely) even if number three is true. Before we all get too hung up trying to figure out exactly what happened without even having been there or talked to those involved, maybe we should see what Trip and law enforcement decide to do so we don't unnecessarily inflame the situation?

Stupid idiots who would do something like that for thrills will brag about it. Certain nameless nefarious organizations do things like that to make a political statement and will eventually brag about it. I'm kinda thinking we need some "ears to the ground" on this one. :shock:

I'm not warning, or complaining, just thinking aloud... :cheers:
 

jadebox

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#3 The published media report bears absolutely no resemblance to the actual occurrences.

Number three is by far the most probable explanation, but numbers one and two are at least possible (no matter how unlikely) even if number three is true.
The reports from last year were very innacurate and self-contradictory. The Chronicle said that a pilot reported that a "model rocket" streaked past the cockpit of an airliner flying at about 5000'. The transcript later published by the paper actually asked"was there a rocket launch in the aera?"

Last year's report was most likely caused by the pilots misidentifying the vapor trail of another aircraft. There was an F-16 in the area that could have been the culprit.

We don't really know what the pilots saw or even claim to have seen in this case. The reporter releasing these stories simply cites unnamed "authorities."

I emailed her last year. Her email address is on the Chronicle's web site. I found that she has little grasp of critical thinking - refusing, for example, to believe that the pilots might be mistaken. And, when I pushed her on things that didn't make sense in the reports from last year, her reply suggested that she believes that reality is subjective.

Before we all get too hung up trying to figure out exactly what happened without even having been there or talked to those involved, maybe we should see what Trip and law enforcement decide to do so we don't unnecessarily inflame the situation?
I hope I've done nothing to inflame the situation. If someone really is flying rockets without following the safety code and regulations, I certainly feel it is our responsibility to help stop it. And, it's certainly appropriate for the FAA and other authorities to investigate the alleged incidents.

My concern is that our hobby is being disparaged and the limited resources of the authorities are being tied up because of irresponsible and sensational "journalism."

-- Roger
 
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RangerStl

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We don't really know what the pilots saw or even claim to have seen in this case. The reporter releasing these stories simply cites unnamed "authorities."
I think that's what they say when they make up some total hooey to make a good story out of something boring.

I emailed her last year. Her email address is on the Chronicle's web site. I found that she has little grasp of critical thinking - refusing, for example, to believe that the pilots might be mistaken. And, when I pushed her on things that didn't make sense in the reports from last year, her reply suggested that she believes that reality is subjective.

-- Roger
Yup, that pretty much sums up news reporters in my experience. :roll:

However, Trip references some specific occurrences for this latest incident. I distrust reporters, but hopefully the police/feds are doing more than reading her news report to investigate this case. Let's see what happens.
 
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georgegassaway

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When NAR President Trip Barber says:

“There is no doubt that this event really happened...”

Guess what? There is no doubt this really happened. Trip is one of the most level-headed, be-sure-of-the-facts persons I have ever met. Clearly he has been presented with plenty of information by the FAA and FBI regarding this that he is sure this is for real.

For him to go to the extent that he did to send that e-mail to all NAR members in Texas, and encourage other NAR members to spread the news to try to track down who did this, was not something that he did lightly.

The fact that this has happened before, another airliner near-miss from the very same area a year ago, shows that this is somebody who has done this before. And who knows how many other times they may have done it but the rocket was not seen? And the secondary ground witness story that something indeed did come down from the sky around that time.

BTW, as I recall, Vulcan, or some other rocket engine maker, made some “SAM” simulator engines and rockets years back for the military, maybe still do. I simply remember it from the 1990’s. Relatively small Big Bertha-ish sized rockets, maybe smaller, with G or maybe H sized smoky engines in them. They were used by the military to simulate the launch of Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs), so that fighter pilots in their planes could have some experience of seeing rockets launched from the ground. They were not intended to fly as high as the planes, just for the pilots to see the launch and climb portion.

Rockets may be sort of hard to see in the sky at times, as viewed from the ground. But from an airplane cockpit, a rocket is a WHOLE lot easier to see against the ground, coming up, due to the smoke (if not also due to the flame), and once seen from the exhaust smoke it is indeed possible for a pilot to see the coasting rocket.

FWIW - a link to a short lo-res video I made 4 years ago with an electric sailplane with a BoosterVision camera onboard. I pointed the plane at the launch area when an E or F powered rocket was launched. Take note how visible the smoke trial is against the ground. Once the rocket gets to the sky it disappears into the sky, just as when you or I see them from the ground. But from the air, looking down, the smoke is noticed VERY easily against the ground. And pilots will take note of the slightest unusual “moving thing” they see that seems to be airborne.

http://homepage.mac.com/georgegassaway/GRP/video/Airvid/Feb05/Veet_Feb2005.mov

Also keep in mind when YOU see a rocket coasting, and it is harder to see, it is moving AWAY from you, and you are seeing it either end-on or at a low angle slant view. If one is going near a plane, it is getting CLOSER to the plane, at least closer to it’s altitude. And unless the rocket actually really is flying right at the plane (scary), the rocket will be seen more in a side view at the higher altitudes, so it presents more profile area to be seen.

Oh, yes, the flame. Take note this happened at 8:09 PM. Well, sunset was at 8:16 PM in the Houston area, according to an online calculator at the Farmer’s Almanac. So, at that time of day, exhaust flame would have been a lot more noticeable. And the sunlight would have hit the smoke trail at almost 90 degrees, perhaps lighting it up like neon that time of day (the sky was described as mostly cloudless). So, those were the almost ideal lighting and sky conditions to maximize the visibility.

Now, do I think that a rocket came within 100 feet? No, not really. BUT, clearly a rocket was launched and it got into the vicinity of a plane. It does not matter “how close”, the rocket SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ANYWHERE NEAR THERE. There was no FAA waiver in that area, so any HPR flying there was illegal, PERIOD.

Or, everybody can just pretend it didn’t happen.
Pretend it is a “UFO Craze” thing.
Pretend that it didn’t happen because some news outlet did not get the facts 100% right (The unfortunate Quickfuse car wreck for example. Just because the news stories said the trailer had “fireworks”, in it, does that mean you do not believe there was a WRECK?).
Pretend that it is only a problem if a rocket really came CLOSE to hitting a plane, when NO ROCKET is supposed to be ANYWHERE near a plane (even WITH a waiver!).
Pretend that Trip Barber would believe in “UFO Stories” and post the message he did without being thoroughly convinced this was for real.
And worst of all, pretend that this kind of thing can just keep happening over and over and the hobby could never end up suffering as a result.

- George Gassaway

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