Two pilots have reported a unique sighting flying alongside their aircraft at about 3,000 feet on approach to Los Angeles International Airport: a man in a jet pack.
American Airlines flight 1997 from Philadelphia to LA was the first to report the unusual sighting, at around 6:35pm local time on Sunday.
“Tower, American 1997, we just passed a guy in a jet pack,” the pilot conveyed to the air traffic controllers, who seemed understandably shocked by the revelation, and asked the pilots for more information.
“American 1997… OK…. Were they off to your left side or right side?” the controller asked.
The pilot said the man was flying with a jet pack at 3,000 feet and only about 300 yards (274 metres) to the left of the plane, an Airbus A321.
Moments later, another pilot, this time from SkyWest, reported to air traffic control that he, too, had seen the flying man.
“We just saw the guy passing by us in the jet pack,” he said, to which a JetBlue pilot responded: “You don’t hear that every day – only in LA.”
The highly unusual incident has sparked investigations by both the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Had the incident truly been a person with a jet pack, it is highly illegal for them to have been present in a commercial airline airspace, or to fly so close to passenger jets.
The authorities have said they are yet to locate any man with a jetpack, and that who or what came close to the planes above LAX remains a mystery for now, although investigations are still underway.
Could it really have been a jet pack?
While jet packs may exist mostly in the world of science fiction and spy films, they definitely do exist in the real world, however most jet packs are owned by wealthy enthusiasts, or used as a tourist attraction for thrill seekers, done so in controlled spaces.
This means that it is certainly plausible for the object to have been a man in a jet pack, however if this were the case, he could hardly sustain a height of over 3,000 feet for very long.
Due to fuel limitations, most jet packs are only capable of flying for minutes at a time, which limits how high they can potentially get.
Earlier this year, a Dubai pilot flew nearly 6,000 feet up using a jet pack, however the flight lasted just three minutes.
Elsewhere, a company called JetPack Aviation has invented what it calls “the world’s only JetPack”, which can reach up to 15,000 feet in altitude, and can be operated for about 10 minutes. The jet pack was introduced by the founder in 2015, who took it for a spin around the Statue of Liberty.
However, the company does not sell its jet pack for recreational use, and requires people to take a three-week course to learn how to operate it and use it in a controlled space.
Commenting on Sunday’s sighting, David Mayman, JetPack Aviation’s founder, said, “Honestly, we don’t know who’s working on a machine that would be foolish enough or reckless enough to do that.”