As if 2020 couldn't get any weirder, airline pilots landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Sunday, August 30th, reported seeing "a guy in a jetpack" flying about 300 yards off their wing while on final approach to the bustling airport. What makes the reports even stranger is that, like a scene out of The Rocketeer, the airliners were descending through 3,000 feet when jetpack guy showed up next to them.
American Flight 1997: "Tower, American 1997, we just passed a guy in a jetpack."
Tower: "American 1997, OK, thank you. Were they off to your left or right side?"
American Flight 1997: "Off the left side, maybe 300 yards or so, about our altitude."
Fox 11 reports a Skywest pilot confirmed the sighting:
Skywest Flight: "We just saw the guy passing by us in the jetpack."
Then the tower alerted an incoming Jet Blue flight to the reported hazard:
Tower: "Jet Blue 23, use caution, a person in a jetpack reported 300 yards south of the LA final at about 3,000 feet, 10 mile final."
Jet Blue 23: "Jet Blue 23, we heard and we are definitely looking."
Another pilot chimed in: "Only in LA."
The airspace around LAX is some of the busiest and most complex in the United States. Having some dude barreling through the skies in some sort of a jetpack around the approach path to the airport, especially at the same altitude as the aircraft that are making their way through the landing corridor, isn't just bonkers, it's absolutely dangerous.
There are a number of new jetpack-like designs that are remarkably capable, but all have very limited range and most have only very low-altitude flight envelopes. Yves "Jetman" Rossi's winged jetpack is definitely capable of such a feat, but his flights have always occurred under highly controlled and well-coordinated circumstances and in sanitized airspace. They are also very high-profile in nature and require a mothership to launch from, such as a helicopter, or at least a very high point to leap from.
So, apparently, someone has a system that is similarly capable, but they are stupid enough to actually use it in incredibly congested airspace as part of an undeclared stunt. It is possible that this was some sort of a drone that was made to look like a dude with a jetpack, although that seems like a longshot. The only other thing we can think of is that this may have been some sort of flying car/mobility solution that was just described as a jetpack. Flying at jet approach speeds and at 3,000 feet, among other issues, still seems like a reach with this scenario. Regardless, the dangerous realities of such a stunt are the same irrespective of the technology behind the craft that was involved.
Pilots certainly see and report some weird things while plying their trade, but this is unique even by our standards. We are going to look into it. In the meantime, this serves as yet another reminder of the strange times we are living in.
Author's note: Hat tip to our buddy Matt Hartman for bringing this one to our attention!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com