“Two airline flight crews reported seeing what appeared to be someone in a jetpack as they were on their final approaches to LAX around 6:35 p.m. PDT Sunday,” the FAA said. The statement did not elaborate.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that the FBI has launched an investigation. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told the Times that agents at the airport were investigating after the pilot reported the incident to the control tower. “The FBI is aware of the reports by pilots on Sunday and is working to determine what occurred,” the agency said in a statement.
Fox 11 Los Angeles obtained recordings of communications between the aircraft and the tower. “Tower, American 1997, we just passed a guy in a jetpack,” a pilot said. “American 1997, OK, thank you, were they off to your left side or your right side?” the controller asked.
“Off the left side at maybe 300 yards or so at our altitude,” the pilot said. Another pilot also reported a sighting. “We just saw the guy pass by us in the jetpack,” he said. The controller then advised another aircraft flight crew to use caution.
“Person in a jetpack reported 300 yards south of the LA final at about 3,000 feet (914 meters), 10-mile (16-kilometer) final,” the controller said. Industry expert David Mayman was dubious that it was a jetpack spotted by the pilots.
“It's very, very unlikely with the existing technology,” said Mayman, CEO of the Los Angeles-based company Jetpack Aviation. “I'm open to being surprised. But I don't think there's anyone working on technology that could do a flight from ground level to 3,000 feet and then come back down again.”
Mayman speculated that it could have been a drone, but he added that 3,000 feet was on the high end of what most drones were capable of.