Airline Pilots Report Seeing “Guy In Jetpack” On Approach To LAX

Filed Under: Misc.

Just when you think 2020 couldn’t get any weirder…

Airline pilots spot “guy in a jetpack”

On Sunday evening, airline pilots on approach to LAX reported seeing a “guy in a jetpack” at around 3,000 feet, not far from their planes. The pilots of American Airlines flight 1997 from Philadelphia were the first to report the situation:

Pilot: “American 1997, we just passed a guy in a jetpack.”
ATC: “American 1997, okay, thank you. Were they off to your left side or right side?”
Pilot: “Off the left side, maybe 300 yards or so, about our altitude.”

In case you’re thinking that pilot might be seeing things, a pilot of another aircraft reported the same:

Other pilot: “We just saw the guy passing by us in the jetpack.”

At that point air traffic control warned other planes on approach to use caution and keep an eye out for the guy with the jetpack:

ATC: “JetBlue 23, use caution, person in a jetpack reported 300 yards south of the LA final, at about 3,000 feet, 10 mile final.”
Pilot: JetBlue 23, we heard and we are definitely looking.”

When Fox 11 Los Angeles asked American Airlines about this, the airline said to contact the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA said it turned over the case to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), while the LAPD says it received no such report from the FAA. So yeah, it seems like this is being investigated really thoroughly. šŸ˜‰

Here’s a news story about the situation, with the air traffic control audio:

Can jetpacks do that?!?

Anything being within a few hundred yards of the LAX approach path is a serious problem, and presumably a breach of airspace. This is extremely irresponsible, both in terms of the risk to the jetpack operator, and also in terms of the risk to the aircraft, should there be a collision.

I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about jetpacks, but based on doing some online searches, it appears that at least some jetpacks can fly at an altitude of up to 2,500 feet (while most can only fly at an altitude of up to a few hundred feet).

There are ultimately few jetpacks out there (at least in comparison to drones), and I’d imagine that of the jetpacks out there, relatively few can fly as high as this one was flying. In other words, if these have to be registered with the FAA (like drones), you’d think authorities would have an easy time narrowing down who did this.

So what exactly happened here?

  • Did the pilots see correctly, or was this in fact something else, or was it much further away and at a much lower altitude than believed?
  • Who was operating this jetpack, and why would they do so close to the approach course? Was it a prank, or who was being this irresponsible?

I hope this is investigated thoroughly, because it sure is a strange story…

Bottom line

Pilots report seeing all kinds of things, but a jetpack at around 3,000 feet, just a few hundred yards from the LAX approach course, is certainly one of the stranger things. As of now there are a lot more questions than answers regarding this situation, so hopefully a proper investigation is done.

Any jetpack operators/enthusiasts have more thoughts on what could have been going on here?

  1. @ VT-CIE — Because it’s a picture I took while on approach to LAX. Since I don’t have a picture of this exact incident (and no one does, hence the confusion), it seemed like the most appropriate picture.

  2. This is totally bizarre but in the age of cell phone video and with all the new technology why was their not one video released from either the crew or passengers of the jet pack flying? I believe the pilots as there is no reason to question their judgement but could it possibly be a drone of some sort? I really do hope that they find out what the hell it was and to my fellow citizens of Los Angeles what the hell are you people thinking? With a pandemic , violence in our cities , and a chaotic and crazy presidential election is there not enough to already worry us? If whatever it was is reveled and the person caught I hope that they get the book thrown at them hard with the strictest of penalties.

  3. ATC using gender neutral language, pilots assuming jetpack operator is male

    I see a business opportunity for SJW to pitch airlines to offer a new mandatory training

  4. Brings up the question of why, in 2020, there are not HD video recorders recording all angles of a flight. The FAA loves to act like it’s 1978, and storage is still expensive; even armored, survivable, black box storage is cheap compared to the cost of investigating crashes or incidents like this.

  5. Was thinking the same thing as @JW. How, in this day and age, are there not cameras all over the outside of plane (with the exception of the new EK F šŸ˜‰ ). This goes for the airports too – most “incident” videos of planes colliding, being blown by wind, etc. while at the gate look like they were filmed on a potato.

  6. I agree with some other’s statements that it is hard to believe that this person could ascent to 3000 ft and apparently hover there, and there is not a photo or video from the aircraft or from the ground ??

  7. No video probably because a person 3000 Ft up may be too small to see from the ground. Passenger windows have limited field of view. Unless it is an unanounced highly capable jetpack made by a mad scientist, my bet is a drone dressed up as a person with a jet pack given how limited jetpacks are in general.

  8. @AW. Because like most things in life, it’s not as simple as you make it sound

    A. So you’re recommending full flight video recording of “all angles” of a plane. Are you aware of how many terrabytes that is going to produce? I’m assuming you want it to work and work well in the dark as well right? ok that would be 4K recording. We’re now into Petabytes of info. Each plane is going to cost you 10s of thousands of dollars in storage. And oh by the way, up that high you’re going to need something better than standard camera yeah? More $$$. And do you plan to keep those recordings long term? yeah? ok how are you going to do the transfer before the next flight? where are you going to store them? Is the FAA going to open a server farm just for this? Are you going to have redundant storage. Oh by the way did I mention that FAA doesn’t have an unlimited budget.

    B. Is the FAA going to install and maintain all that equipment on every airline in the air? No? Maybe you want the airlines to pay for it? Good luck getting buy ins from near bankrupt airlines.

    C. Wait for it…. a whole lot of people will be up in arms complaining that the govt is secretly recording them. Screams of PRIVACY will kill this from ever even becoming a dream.

    And this is just off the top of my head.

  9. I don’t know why but this makes me laugh. If it had been a drone I would have just been angry at the irresponsibility. Shame there is no video.

  10. KLAX approach is class B airspace from surface to 10000ā€™. This is airspace incursion. Why FAA defer to LAPD?

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