An air traffic controller who had the unusual job of disseminating the news that a guy in a jetpack was crowding the skies Sunday had one observation: “Only in L.A.”
On the weekend, two separate pilots flying American Airlines and Southwest Airlines planes said they’d spotted someone flying a jetpack as they approached LAX, NBC Los Angeles reports.
“Tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in a jetpack,” one pilot reportedly said. The pilot then added that the individual was flying about 300 yards away — at the plane’s same altitude of 3,000 feet.
“Tower, we just saw the guy pass by us,” the Southwest pilot said.
While it seems unwise for a human to go airborne right alongside some airplanes, it’s not impossible. One jetpack company, JetPack Aviation, is based in Moorpark — which is just an hour north west of LAX.
The company has two jetpacks and one “recreational speeder” which are supposedly capable of reaching 15,000 feet. In addition to providing tethered jetpack experiences for customers at its Moorpark location, it has conducted flights around the world — including in Los Angeles.
However, when reached for comment by Mashable, JetPack Aviation’s CEO David Mayman said it wasn’t them or any of their jetpacks.
“It wasn’t us,” Mayman said. “We’re trying to work out who it was as well, or what it was.”
“We don’t sell our jetpacks, and we know where they are,” he added. So it’s not like someone could be using one of them without the company’s knowledge.
In fact, Mayman has doubts that it was a jetpack at all. First of all, he said there are only a handful of companies that make jetpacks capable of reaching such heights, and he doesn’t think any of them would be “stupid enough” to “risk the whole industry” with a stunt that endangers the pilot, aircraft, and passengers.
What’s more, Mayman said that what the pilots describe is technologically impossible without a parachute landing. The jetpacks that exist today can only operate for around 10 minutes, according to Mayman. That would be enough time to reach 3,000 feet and fly around for a bit, but then the pilot would need to descend with a parachute.
“I didn’t hear any reports about a parachute coming down within LAX,” Mayman said.
Instead, Mayman suspects that it was another type of flying device. His best guess? “It’s more likely to be some sort of drone with a mannequin in it, maybe. But not a jetpack.”
The plot thickens! Mashable’s only other far-fetched guess? Elon Musk’s SpaceX is based in Hawthorne, which is just South of LAX. SpaceX doesn’t have a jetpack, but we wouldn’t put a rogue test flight past Elon.