The pilot of American Airlines flight 1997 was the first to report “we just passed a guy in a jetpack.” Everyone will be remembering 2020 as a really strange year, but a couple of captains flying into Los Angeles this weekend saw something that will go down as one of the wildest things to happen yet.
The pilot could hardly believe his eyes
It’s not clear if any of the passengers traveling from Philadelphia to Los Angeles noticed anything unusual but the pilot sure did. Someone playing chicken with a twin-jet Airbus A321 at 3,000 feet isn’t something one sees every day. “Tower, American 1997, we just passed a guy in a jetpack,” the captain radioed in. They were about ten miles from the airport when the near miss occurred.
The sighting was quickly confirmed by a Skywest pilot. “We just saw the guy passing by us in the jetpack.” Tower tapes confirmed the reports. All the other jets in the sky were “immediately warned to use caution.”
The FAA isn’t saying a whole lot other than they are “looking into the incident.” They aren’t real sure the word of a pilot is good enough so they’re treating it as a drone sighting, which is a lot more common. “Unmanned aircraft sightings from pilots, law enforcement personnel and the general public have increased dramatically over the past two years,” The FAA weaseled, noting “There are more than 100 sightings of this nature each month.” They couldn’t come up with an explanation for all the drones flying over Colorado a while back either. They washed their hands and “passed all information to the Los Angeles Police.”
— Good Morning America (@GMA) September 1, 2020
You can do it if you have the money
LAPD doesn’t want anything to do with tracking down the renegade jetpack pilot. They are too busy keeping anarchists from burning LA to the ground should they happen to need to shoot someone. They dumped it on the FBI. The Federal Bureau of Instigation isn’t happy about taking time away from hiding evidence and bugging political opponents but they accepted responsibility for “investigating claims of a person flying in a jetpack near planes,” on August 30.
“The FBI is aware of the reports by pilots on Sunday and is working to determine what occurred,” they said in a prepared statement. No one “has been identified as traveling by jetpack at that time.” They note that “jetpacks can fly that high” but it’s not a great idea. “Flying this dangerously high in the sky is not typical. It would have been illegal for him to fly in commercial airline airspace or to fly alongside planes.” Not only that, it could give a pilot a heart attack.
Anyone with $100,000 or so to burn on toys can get the equipment. A New Zealand manufacturer called Martin Aircraft Company Ltd. will be glad to hook you up with “the world’s first practical jetpack.” They market them as “a simple, versatile, compact, easy-to-operate, single-man aerial VTOL vehicle, with applications in security (offense / defence), surveillance, emergency response, recreational in both manned and unmanned versions.” Standard “Pilot safety features include a fail-safe parachute deployable as low as 6m.” The gas powered engine can lift 220 pounds for an operating time of an hour and a half. The specs call for a speed of up to 62 mph, with a flight ceiling of 5,000 feet.