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Is someone really flying around LAX in a jet pack? Trying to solve an aviation mystery

By Richard Winton and Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

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

Some experts say it's possible.

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

Others, though, are more skeptical. Hirschberg said the apparatus seen near LAX could have been a balloon, particularly because the China Airlines pilot noted that the flying object was shiny.

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

Drones comes in many shapes and sizes. In August 2019, an inventor demonstrated a flying man drone at a German remote control show. The drone was made to look human with a flight suit stuffed with bubble wrap with boots and a lightweight visored helmet attached to a battery-powered drone.


In the U.S., 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 crewed aircraft.

L.A. airspace is no stranger to unexpected sights. Back in 1982 a guy took flight over Long Beach in a lawn chair lifted aloft by helium-filled balloons. Pilots reported seeing him too.

As for the jet pack sightings, the FBI has so far been tight-lipped about its investigation.

But on the late August night when the mystery began, the air traffic controller summed up the feelings of many: "Only in L.A."

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