Airliner Pilot Says Jet Pack Guy Over Los Angeles Looked Just Like This Crazy Drone

Months after an initial report from airline pilots about seeing what appeared to be an individual flying alongside them using a jet pack as they came in to land at Los Angeles International Airport, that incident, and subsequent encounters in southern California, remains as curious and unexplained as ever. Newly obtained documents from the Federal Aviation Administration show officials there were also stumped after the first sighting. At the same time, they were asking similar questions and considering one of the exact same possible explanations that we here at The War Zone

have also explored.

John Greenewald, a vigorous filer of Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests and author, who runs the website The Black Vault, received the documents through the FOIA process and generously shared them with The War Zone. You can read the documents in their entirety over at The Black Vault by clicking here. The records cover discussions between various FAA officials regarding the first of these recent jet pack-related sightings near Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, on Aug. 30, 2020. You can read more about that incident specifically in these previous War Zone stories.

A video online of a remote-controlled jet pack guy has become of interest to investigators. , Youtube Screencap


The initial notice that the FAA sent out about the sighting of an individual flying using a jet pack near LAX on Aug. 30, 2020., FAA via FOIA

A large portion of the documents concern the back-and-forth between air traffic controllers and other FAA personnel regarding the sighting and efforts to immediately confirm whether or not it actually occurred. These records largely reiterate what has already been known thanks to publicly available air traffic control audio recordings, which you can find in this past War Zone piece.

As was noted at the time, air traffic controllers did not spot anything on their radars that would match the description of what became known as the “jet pack guy.” In an Email, Ray Palmer, a Group Manager within the FAA’s Litigation Support and Enforcement Office, offered to have the raw radar data reviewed to see if that might turn up any additional information. Any further details about that portion of the investigation are not included in this batch of documents. Still, this would further confirm information The War Zone

had previously received that there had been reviews of the radar tapes from around the time of previous jet pack-related encounters in the past six months, but that nothing abnormal had been found.

However, the documents do include a very interesting series of Emails between Sept. 2 and Sept. 3, 2020. On Sept. 2, Victor Goodell, the Aviation Safety Manager at the Van Nuys Flight Standards District Office, sent out one Email to a group of other officials that said he had contacted David Mayman, the Chief Test Pilot at Jetpack Aviation, based in Van Nuys, California, who was skeptical of the reported sighting.

“He confirmed that they have not flown for months,” Goodell wrote of his conversation with Mayman. “He stated that he does not believe there are any ‘Jetpack’ operators who could get to 3000’ and sustain it.”

Victor Goodell’s Sept. 2 Email regarding the jet pack sighting., FAA via FOIA

The War Zone

has also raised questions about the feasibility of an individual being able to fly for any prolonged period using a jet pack at 3,000 feet. 

Even more interestingly, on Sept. 3, John Blanco, the Aviation Safety Manager at the Los Angeles Flight Standards District Office, responded on the same Email chain with some details about what the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had turned up. The FBI has been leading the investigation into the incident since shortly after the initial report.

“Mike Bumberger, our LEAP [Law Enforcement Assistance Program] Agent shared that the FBI interviewed the American Airlines pilot that made the jetpack sighting,” Blanco wrote. “The pilot said what he saw was exactly like the drone in the Youtube video below.”

This is the video linked in Blanco’s Email:

The War Zone included this exact video as one possible explanation for these sightings in a piece after video footage of another encounter between a student pilot and a “jet pack guy” off Palos Verdes in December 2020 surfaced online. You can read our full report on that incident here.

As The War Zone‘s Tyler Rogoway wrote at that time:

It is possible that this is some sort of a drone dressed up to look like a guy in a jet pack, as seen in the video below. Then the question becomes why would someone be doing this? What could possibly be worth the risk? Also, it’s not like executing such a feat would be a cheap or simple operation. In this case, the craft wasn’t even flying over a populated area, it was out to sea where there are far fewer eyes to even recognize it. 

It’s interesting to note that Bumberger, the agent from LEAP, which is situated within the FAA’s Office of Security and Hazardous Materials Safety, or ASH, was also involved in the investigation into reports of mysterious drone swarm activity in eastern Colorado and neighboring parts of Nebraska and Kansas between December 2019 and January 2020. You can read more about that episode and what is known about it in this past War Zone piece.

The newly released jet pack-related documents also include discussions between FAA officials regarding a video posted on Facebook on Sept. 8, 2020, of another possible sighting of a “jet pack guy.” That clip, seen below, purportedly shows the object in question, which does appear to be the general size and shape of a person, flying near the cities of Cudahy and South Gate, to the southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

It’s not clear when this video was shot and its provenance is unconfirmed. Still, Blanco, the Aviation Safety Manager at the Los Angeles Flight Standards District Office, noted in a Email after receiving a link to the clip that “Ten mile final (basica ly [sic]) [to LAX]… Cudahy is right in line with where the [Aug. 30] sighting was.” He also attached an annotated satellite image showing the approximate location of the August 2020 encounter.

Los Angeles Flight Standards District Office Aviation Safety Manager John Blanco’s Email regarding the video that emerged online in September 2020., FAA via FOIA

There is no discussion within the documents released via FOIA about any further investigation into this video.

All told, the case of the “jet pack guy” seems to be very much open from what we know now. It’s still interesting to know that FAA officials investigating the matter have been exploring similar and, in some cases, identical avenues to try to solve this mystery. While a drone dressed-up to look like a jet pack guy remains one theory, we still have no conclusive idea as to what or who the elusive Los Angeles rocketeer actually is. 

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Joseph Trevithick Avatar

Joseph Trevithick

Deputy Editor

Joseph has been a member of The War Zone team since early 2017. Prior to that, he was an Associate Editor at War Is Boring, and his byline has appeared in other publications, including Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defense Journal, Reuters, We Are the Mighty, and Task & Purpose.