The fabled jet pack man of LAX may not be a man, but a drone. That’s one theory being floated as authorities fail to find their airborne man. In early September, multiple aircraft on approach to LAX reported seeing a man with a jet pack buzzing their planes. Despite the best efforts of several law enforcement agencies, there has been no pinch yet. That’s despite our man coming back for another game of chicken with planes heading into LAX in mid-October.
Multiple sightings in late 2020 near LAX
An American Airlines pilot scored some headlines in September when he reported a “guy in a jetpack” around 300 yards off to the left of his Airbus A321 as it passed through 3,000 feet. The FAA later told Simple Flying another aircraft also called in a sighting.
A month and a half later, a China Airlines flight reported a sighting. That plane was passing through 6,000 feet some seven miles northwest of LAX. The FAA later said they were investigating multiple reports of an “individual in a jetpack near LAX.”
Since then, perhaps deciding discretion was the best way to dodge a spell with a smelly cellmate in a federal penitentiary, there have been no more reported sightings. That’s not to say the authorities have eased back on the chase.
Authorities on the hunt for LAX jet pack man
A report by Joseph Trevithick in The Drive explores the emails authorities have been busy sending each other on the matter. Trevithick’s report is based on a trove of emails gathered by John Greenewald via a freedom of information request. Those emails raise a couple of theories. One of them is that jet pack man is not so much a man, as a drone.
One of the initial problems the FAA/FBI/LAX investigators had was that whatever it was up there wasn’t showing up on radar records. That’s because your average jetpack isn’t big enough to be captured by radar. However, as one FAA investigator noted, there are some pretty high-performance jet packs out there.
One of the most interesting emails came from Victor Goodell, an FAA Division Manager at Van Nuys, California. He said he spoke to the Chief Test Pilot at Jetpack Aviation. The Chief Test Pilot said he didn’t believe any jetpack could get to 3,000 feet and “sustain it.” The early September sightings were at around 3,000 feet. In mid-October, the sighting was at 6,000 feet.
The key word here is “sustain.” Jet packs can go high, but they don’t stay up for long. A jet pack got to 6,000 feet in Dubai early last year in a flight lasting three minutes. The operator then had to parachute back down. Late last year, Jetpack Aviation told The New York Times their jet packs could fly for ten minutes and technically reach 15,000 feet. Jetpack Aviation also said they don’t sell their jetpacks to the general public.
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Is jet pack man jet pack drone?
This suggests that while a jet pack man might make it up to the required heights to buzz the planes, he couldn’t hang around there. It would be straight up and straight back down again. What also made the jet pack man theory shaky was the American Airlines pilot telling the FBI his jet pack man looked just like the drone dressed up as a man in this Youtube clip that currently has over 7.5 million views.
That’s an interesting scenario. A drone masquerading as a person is easily enough done, and many drones have the capability to sustain flight at the altitudes at which the aircraft were operating. The authorities are still investigating. But if this theory pans out, it is one reason why United States authorities have recently moved to regulate and register drone use.
There have been no sightings of jetpack man/drone man for three months. Maybe he’s retired after his short burst of media and law enforcement attention. Perhaps, he is just smart enough not to push his luck. Perhaps he is a she.
What do you think? Man or drone? Post a comment and let us know.