Law enforcement aircraft searched for jet pack near LAX but couldn't find anything

·3 min read
A 747 comes in for a landing at LAX with the downtown skyline as a backdrop. The best spots to watch planes? El Segundo's Imperial Hill area and next to the In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda Boulevard.
A plane approaches LAX for a landing with downtown Los Angeles in the background. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

When a pilot for China Airlines told the Los Angeles International Airport control tower that he saw what appeared to be a person flying in a jet pack outside the plane as it approached the airport Wednesday, a law enforcement aircraft was directed to look for the mysterious flier.

When it received the request, the aircraft was flying about seven miles from where the pilot said he'd seen the jet pack, according to radio communications. But when the craft arrived, no sign was found of a person flying in a jet pack.

Wednesday's sighting marks the second time pilots have reported seeing someone flying in a jet pack in the LAX approach pattern in a little over a month. The FBI has been investigating a reported sighting in late August but has not announced any leads.

Within aviation circles, there has been much speculation about whether this is really a person in a jet pack or perhaps a drone that looks like the device.

"The FBI is in contact with the FAA and investigating multiple reports of what, according to witnesses, appeared to be an individual in a jet pack near LAX, including one today by a China Airlines pilot," the agency said in a statement.

Air traffic controllers took no chances with the reported 1:45 p.m. sighting by the pilot of a packed Boeing 777 and immediately scrambled to warn commercial airliners descending into the airport of the potential threat.

As China Airlines 006 began its descent, the pilot radioed the tower: "We just saw a bright object at 6,000."

The tower sought clarification, asking the pilot to repeat himself. The pilot then replied, "We saw a flying object ... flight suit jet pack at 6,000."

The surprised-sounding air traffic controller asked: "Was it a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone] or was it a jet pack?"

The China Airlines pilot said the object was too far away and too shiny to be certain, but said it looked "like a jet pack."

The tower then warned another large jetliner, an Emirates flight, "there was a jet pack reported about 13 miles ahead."

Air traffic controllers spotted a law enforcement aircraft about seven miles away and asked for its assistance to check out the reported sighting.

As air traffic controllers began redirecting flights around that section of airspace, the law enforcement aircraft flew to the last known sighting of the jet pack.

"Not seeing anything," the pilot reported.

In the earlier sighting, on Aug. 30, the control tower at LAX received reports about a jet pack around 6:45 p.m.

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

“American 1997, OK, thank you. Were they off to your left or right side?” the tower operator asked.

“Off the left side, maybe 300 yards or so, about our altitude,” the pilot responded.

“We just saw the guy pass us by in the jet pack,” a pilot from Jet Blue Airways then told the tower, which warned another pilot about the sighting.

“Only in L.A.,” the air traffic controller said at one point.

For the record:
8:26 AM, Oct. 16, 2020: An earlier version of this article stated the initial sighting of a jet pack at Los Angeles International Airport occurred Aug. 29. The date was Aug. 30.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting