Once again, an unidentified man has been spotted flying a jet pack past passenger airliners above Los Angeles International Airport, puzzling pilots and investigators.
This time, our Iron Man impersonator was spotted by flight crew aboard a China Airlines aircraft at around 1:45pm last Wednesday, and was said to be flying at around 6,000 feet. The sighting occurred around 11 kilometres north-west of LAX.
The US Federal Aviation Administration said it alerted local law enforcement agencies on the matter, including the FBI, which it had been working with to investigate an earlier sighting of a man in a jet pack flying above LAX.
Yes, as bizarre as it may seem, this is not the first time a man in a jet pack has been spotted above LAX.
“The FBI is in contact with the FAA and is investigating multiple reports of what, according to witnesses, appeared to be an individual in a jet pack near LAX, including one today reported by a China Airlines crew,” FBI Los Angeles Field Office spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
Last month, World of Aviation reported that two pilots had spotted a man in a jet pack flying alongside their aircraft at about 3,000 feet on approach to LAX.
On 30 August 2020, pilots onboard American Airlines flight 1997 from Philadelphia to LA were the first to report the unusual sighting to air traffic control – they claimed to have spotted “a guy in a jet pack” travelling just 300 yards away from the Airbus 321, at the same altitude as the narrow-bodied jet.
Moments later, a pilot from a SkyWest flight also reported seeing the mysterious 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.”
However, the most recent sighting of a man flying at 6,000 feet has seen curious onlookers feeling a little less confident that jet packs are involved.
So, was it a jet pack or not?
The answer is, we still don’t really know.
As previously reported, jet packs do not just exist in the realm of science fiction – they are very much real.
However, due to fuel limitations, most jet packs currently in existence are only capable of flying for minutes at a time, which limits how high they can potentially get.
This isn’t necessarily to say the two sightings couldn’t have been a jet pack, but signs point to it being unlikely.
Earlier this year, a Dubai pilot flew nearly 6,000 feet up using a jet pack, however his flight lasted just three minutes.
Elsewhere, a company called JetPack Aviation has invented a jet pack that can reach up to 15,000 feet in altitude, which can be operated for about 10 minutes, although only five devices have been created and they are not available for sale or recreational use.
Following this second LAX jet pack sighting, JetPack Aviation founder David Mayman has told the media that it is highly unlikely that these pilots spotted a real person, and could instead have seen a drone carrying a lightweight mannequin of some kind.
Mayman said that both the FAA and FBI had contacted him in regard to the sightings, hoping to learn more about the possible performance capabilities of jet packs with today’s technology.
However, he reiterated that his model only holds enough fuel to fly for just eight to 10 minutes, making it highly unlikely a person could climb to thousands of feet, loiter enough to be spotted by multiple flight crews, and then land safely.
A pilot in a jet pack of today would have perhaps been able to climb straight up and immediately come down, however this is not consistent with the details of the sightings.
“To fly up to 6,000 feet from the ground, to fly around long enough to be seen by China Airlines and then to descend again, you’d be out of fuel,” he said.
Mayman also said the 200-pound thrust turbojets that power the JetPack are understandably noisy, meaning Iron Man would have attracted a serious amount of attention.
Authorities wondered if perhaps the LAX jet pack flyer enlisted the help of a parachute to return himself to earth after his extended joy flight, however Mayman said the use of a parachute would have made the whole ordeal significantly more visible.
Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the Vertical Flight Society, a non-profit professional organisation, agreed that while it is possible that these LAX sightings could have been a person in a jet pack, it is “highly unlikely”.
He agreed that a more reasonable explanation could be a drone fitted with a human-like dummy figure, in order to intentionally present as a jet pack.