After an extended hiatus, it looks the infamous “LAX jetpack guy” is back.
“Jetpack guy” spotted at LAX again last night
On Wednesday evening, a pilot on approach to LAX reported spotting a guy in a jetpack again. According to a statement from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson:
“A Boeing 747 pilot reported seeing an object that might have resembled a jet pack 15 miles east of LAX at 5,000 feet altitude. Out of an abundance of caution, air traffic controllers alerted other pilots in the vicinity.”
Okay, I know I’m an avgeek, but is it bad that half of what I took away from that was “look, a 747, those are rare now, and I wonder which airline!” I digress…
While I haven’t seen a transcript of the original air traffic control audio, there is audio of air traffic controllers last night warning other pilots about the sighting:
Air traffic controller: Skywest 3626, use caution. The jet man is back, let me know if you see him.
Air traffic controller: Skywest 3626, did you see the UFO?
Pilot: We were looking, but we did not see Iron Man.
What we know about the “LAX jetpack guy”
For those of you not familiar with this saga, in the second half of 2021 there were several reports by pilots of a “jetpack guy” flying dangerously close to planes on approach to LAX:
- In August 2020, an American Airlines pilot reported seeing “a guy in a jetpack,” and this is something that was corroborated by another pilot
- Then in October 2020, a China Airlines pilot reported seeing a guy in a jetpack as well while on approach, though he didn’t say it with quite as much certainty
- Then in December 2020, flight instructors caught a jetpack on camera, over the Pacific Ocean and near Palos Verdes
This situation was being taken seriously, to the point that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating this. Assuming this is actually a person in a jetpack, there are a variety of things that make this dangerous and strange:
- This jetpack was being operated in restricted airspace, just hundreds of feet from commercial aircraft, which is dangerous and reckless
- There aren’t many jetpacks that can operate at altitudes of 3,000+ feet, so that narrows down those who could be involved
- What is someone’s motive for even doing this, given that they could be looking at serious punishment for operating a jetpack in a restricted area?
- How has not a single person publicly come forward and said “hey, I know that person” or “I saw that person take off in a jetpack,” given that jetpacks tend to draw attention?
- Why would someone fly a jetpack out over the open ocean, which is incredibly dangerous and unusual?
Earlier this year we learned more about what might be going on, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that had been filed. This revealed that the most likely explanation is that the “jetpack guy” isn’t actually a guy in a jetpack, but rather a drone made to look like a guy in a jetpack, something like the below.
We still don’t know for sure, but that’s the prevailing theory as of now. While I can appreciate the humor in this in general (making a drone look like a person), it’s so reckless and wrong to do this in busy airspace while trying to distract pilots who have others’ lives in their hands.
It seems that the mysterious “LAX jetpack guy” is once again making an appearance. “He” was spotted last night near LAX by a 747 pilot, and air traffic controllers told other pilots to be on the lookout.
We don’t know anything further, really, other than that the theory is that this might actually be a drone made to look like a person. The fact that the person behind this still hasn’t been caught, though, is kind of shocking…
What do you make of these continued jetpack sightings?