Pilots Report Jet Pack Sighting 3,000 Feet Over LA

Two commercial airline pilots approaching LAX reported seeing a man in a jet pack flying alongside planes, prompting an FBI investigation.

What We Know:

  • On Sunday, two pilots reported a man flying a jet pack at 3,000 feet altitude as they approached Los Angeles International Airport. “Tower, American 1997 — we just passed a guy in a jet pack,” the pilot of American Airlines Flight 1997 from Philadelphia told air traffic control at about 6:35 p.m. on Sunday. The interaction was recorded and shared by LiveATC.net, which posts live and archived recordings of air-traffic-control radio transmissions. The controller asked where in relation to the plane the man was and the pilot responded that the person with the jet pack was about 300 yards to the plane’s left, at about the same altitude.
  • About 30 seconds later, another pilot confirmed he had also seen the man pass by. The controller then warned the pilot of incoming JetBlue Flight 23 to keep a lookout, adding “You don’t hear that every day. Only in L.A”.
  • Both the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration announced they are investigating the incident. American Airlines declined to identify the pilot and referred inquiries to the FAA and JetBlue officials, who would not comment on the developing situation.
  • The FAA said that the report was turned over to the Los Angeles Police and authorities have yet to locate any man with a jetpack. Who or what came close to the planes currently remains a mystery and the FAA says an investigation is underway. If, in fact, the sighting was of a man with a jetpack, it would have been illegal for him to fly in commercial airline airspace or to fly alongside planes. It is currently unclear what consequences the man would face if true.
  • Currently, there are a few human jetpacks in development that can reach altitudes of up to 12,000 feet with price tags of a half-million dollars, but many cannot be in the air for more than a few minutes. Experts warn that jet packs could lead to a very dangerous situation. “The size, weight of a person in a jet pack impacting an airplane at the exact wrong spot could potentially bring that airliner down,” ABC News Contributor and retired Marine Colonel Steve Ganyard said. “This is why it’s so important for when these technologies come along — drones, jetpacks, taxis in the sky — that people need to fly them in a responsible way and not put the flying public in danger.”

The airspace around LAX is considered the busiest and most complex in the United States. It is very lucky that the incident did not end in tragedy. FBI Spokesperson Laura Eimiller confirmed the ongoing investigation, saying “The FBI is aware of the reports by pilots on Sunday and is working to determine what may have occurred.”