‘Jet Pack Man’ sighted at LAX – we think it’s a drone

Jet Pack Man LAX drone

Oh, man. Here we go again. Another sighting by pilots near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) of a Jet Pack Man, close to their flight path. But we don’t think it’s a true Jet Pack – though we certainly understand why pilots describe it as such. No, we’re convinced it’s a drone.

We’ve been down this road before. Last year, there were several reports from pilots of crewed aircraft who saw what appeared to be a man flying a jet pack near Los Angeles International Airport. Reports were filed, radar data sifted through… but it remained a mystery.

And now? It’s happened again.

CNN reports ‘Jet Pack Man’ sighted at LAX

So picture this: You’re a pilot of a 747. You’re about 15 miles east of Los Angeles International Airport and at an altitude of 5,000 feet above ground level (AGL). It’s Wednesday at about 6:30 p.m. You’re scanning the skies and you see it: What appears to be a man flying at a similar altitude in a jet pack. You quickly transmit to air traffic control (ATC).

CNN obtained some of the ATC audio. In it, a controller tells aircraft in the area: “Use caution, the jet man is back… Let me know if you see him.”

Not the first time

As mentioned, we’ve reported on this before. But what really caught our attention was a post last December from Sling Pilot Academy, based in Torrance, California. While on a student training flight near Palos Verdes at about 3,000 feet AGL, those in the aircraft spotted something. A cellphone captured what appears to be Jet Pack Man. Here he (or it) is:

We don’t believe it’s a Jet Pack man… and here’s why

First of all, the fuel required for a Jet Pack has to be carried by the pilot. There’s a limit to what you can strap on your back, so Jet Pack flights tend to be short-duration and low altitude. Flying at 3,000 feet – or 5,000 feet, as reported in the latest incident – is out of the question.

So, what is this thing?

We believe it’s a drone

A drone? Seriously? That doesn’t look like a drone, right? That looks like Jet Pack Man.

Well, have a look at this: It’s a custom-built drone dubbed “Manni Quinn.” And there’s no doubt it would look real to a pilot who gets just a brief glance at it. Check out this video, posted by RC Media World:

In case you’re thinking this might be the same person in the video above – that builder/pilot lives in Germany. But if Ralph Kayser could build a unit like this, so could someone else.

FAA Investigation

After a previous incident where Jet Pack Man was reported near LAX, the Federal Aviation Administration got involved. Some of the correspondence at that time indicated that aviation experts were on the same page:

Wait, there’s more!

Other documents that came to light indicated that an examination of radar data found nothing – meaning whatever was in the air wasn’t substantial or dense enough to ping a return. And the FAA pointed out that one of the pilot witnesses believed it looked “exactly” like the drone in the video you just saw:

DroneDJ‘s take

We are pretty much 100% certain what the Jet Pack Man pilots have been spotting near LAX is a drone similar to the one above. And while that might arguably be somehow “better” than a human being flying a jet pack in controlled airspace, it’s not cool at all. In fact, it’s downright dangerous.

Even if this is a super lightweight rig, the distraction it would cause to pilots cannot be overstated. Whoever is behind this, we hope, will be caught and charged.

And, with the increasing deployment of drone countermeasures at airports (and other sensitive facilities) around the world, odds are the person responsible will eventually be apprehended.

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