The pilot of a Continental Express airliner turned sharply yesterday evening shortly after takeoff from Dulles International Airport here to avoid what he told passengers was a small plane in front of his.

"There was a little airplane out in front of us," the pilot, Jim Clinton, announced over the intercom of the Boeing 737, according to a passenger. "He wasn't where he was supposed to be."

No injuries were reported in the incident, which occurred around 6 p.m., said the passenger on the airliner, which continued to Albany, N.Y., its scheduled destination.

After flight records were checked, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said the Continental Express flight was following "perfectly normal procedure."

She said the Continental Express plane was under instructions from a controller to turn to enable the other airplane, a general aviation flight, to descend.

The FAA spokeswoman said that the smaller plane was also under the supervision of a controller.

There was "no compromise of separation standards" between airplanes, she said.

According to the passenger's report, the twin-engine airliner, carrying about 80 passengers, left Dulles shortly before 6 p.m.

After the plane had been climbing for about five minutes, it suddenly turned sharply to the right, the passenger said. He said the pilot described the maneuver as a right turn on climbout.