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Does anyone really fly around LAX in a jet pack?

It was an otherwise quiet Saturday night at the Los Angeles International Airport checkpoint on August 29, when a pilot from American Airlines sent radio with an incredible report.

“Tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in a jet pack,” said the pilot.

Minutes later, another pilot approaching LAX in a Jet Blue passenger plane confirmed the sight: “We just saw the guy come past us in the jet package.”

Then began one of the most exciting aviation mysteries that Los Angeles has faced in years.

And the case took another twist on Wednesday when a China Airlines pilot approaching LAX reported seeing a 6,000-foot jet package fly above the ground.

The FBI is in the case, as is a good chunk of LA̵

7;s aviation community that has been buzzing about sightings.

Although jet packs frequently appear in movies and other popular culture, they are actually very rare.

There are only a handful of companies around the world that manufacture jet packages, including a winged unit set up by former Swiss Air Force pilot Yves Rossy, which requires him to be hoisted into the air with a helicopter or balloon before he can take off. There is also a type of hoverboard made by the French company Zapata and only flown by the inventor, Franky Zapata.

Locally, Chatsworth-based JetPack Aviation has created five jet packages carried as backpacks. But they are not for sale, and CEO David Mayman also did not say that any of his competitors’ products are sold to consumers.

It is possible that Wednesday’s observation near LAX was actually someone flying with a jet pack. But the altitude at which the person was reported flying makes it seem “very unlikely,” said Mike Hirschberg, executive director of the Vertical Flight Society, a nonprofit professional organization.

Mayman said his company’s jet packages are technically capable of reaching heights of 15,000 feet. However, due to fuel constraints, they can actually only reach safely about 1000 or 1500 feet from the ground.

“Flying up to 6,000 meters from the ground, flying around long enough to be seen by China Airlines and then down again, you would be out of fuel,” he said.

Mayman said he knows it was none of his company’s jet packages because he knows exactly where they are – plus, they’s disabled when not in use, so it was not possible to take a package. out of stock.

Instead, he thinks the sighting may have been of an electric drone – perhaps one with a mannequin attached.

Thomas Anthony, director of the USC Aviation Safety and Security Program and a former Federal Aviation Administration criminal investigator, said the strongest evidence that LAX sightings are a person with a jet pack – as opposed to a balloon or drone – came from the American Airlines pilot , who reported seeing the object 3000 meters above Cudahy.

The pilot said he saw “a guy in a jet pack” 300 meters to his left and flying around the height of the plane.

“It’s pretty close,” Anthony said.

He said federal investigators would immediately look at the limited number of jet packages available in the United States and abroad.

“People in this community know who bought these packages,” he said. “If anyone does this, they’ll have to leave and land somewhere, and there will be noise.”

Anthony said he is in doubt that the culprit is using an airport to take off, and said investigators should look at out of the way industrial sites for tracks. The FBI suggested the jet package flew in a section of southeast Los Angeles County near Cudahy and Vernon that is littered with commercial and manufacturing companies.

The flying range of jet packages is quite limited, Anthony added, so it is unlikely that it traveled any great distance.

Following the pilot report from China Airlines on Wednesday, the LAX control tower called for a law enforcement aircraft to investigate.

The plane flew about seven miles from where the pilot said he had seen the jetpack, according to radio communications.

But when the craft arrived, there remained no sign of the jet pack.

A jet package could be operated as ultralight – meaning it would not be registered and its operator would not need a pilot certificate if it meets the requirements for fuel capacity, weight and speed according to the FAA. Ultralight aircraft are only allowed to fly during the day and are excluded from flying over densely populated areas or in controlled spaceflight without FAA approval.

Anthony and others say it is imperative that the FBI investigate observations for security reasons.

“This represents a very significant compromise with airspace,” he said.

If a rogue pilot flew 6,000 feet without a transponder or radio, Anthony said it would put him in the way of commercial airlines maneuvering over Los Angeles.

Airplanes are designed to withstand being hit by small objects. However, if a metal object – especially one with fuel in it, such as a jet package – were to be sucked into an aircraft engine, it could lead to an explosion.

“The engines are not designed to consume anything big and metal or anything with fuel that is going to burn or explode,” Hirschberg said. “It could be potentially catastrophic for an aircraft. You could possibly cause an engine to explode and bring down the passenger plane, and hundreds of people could potentially die. ”

So is what has been reported near LAX really a jet pack?

Some experts say it is possible.

Jetman pilot Vince Reffet launched his 1,800 meters in Dubai on Friday 14 February.

In February, a pilot in Dubai reached an altitude of 5,900 feet with a Jetman jet package powered by four mini-jet engines with carbon fiber wings. The package’s builders say it can reach speeds of almost 250 mph. After a series of dip and roll maneuvers, the Dubai pilot fell to the ground using a parachute.

Others, however, are more skeptical. Hirschberg said the device seen near LAX could have been a balloon, especially because the China Airlines pilot noticed the flying object was shiny.

Or it could have been a drone, he said. In recent years, some airports have had to halt flights following drone sightings. In 2018 London Gatwick Airport closed for more than a day after repeated drone observations.

In the United States, recreational users are not allowed to fly their drones higher than 400 feet, cannot fly over people or moving vehicles, and are prohibited from interfering with manned aircraft.

The FBI has so far been close to its investigation.

But in late August evening, when the mystery began, the air traffic controller summed up the feeling of many: “Only in LA”

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