The FBI is now involved in the investigation into reports that two airline crew spotted ‘a guy in a jetpack’ as they approached Los Angeles International Airport at 3,000ft on Sunday evening.
No explanation has been found for the mysterious sighting that shocked pilots and the control tower but left some experts skeptical.
David Mayman, CEO of Jetpack Aviation, told CBS that he believed it was more likely to be a large drone despite the certainty of the witnesses.
The Los Angeles-based company is working alongside the US military in the development of a jetpack but has denied that one of their aircraft was involved.
The FBI has confirmed they are investigating reports that two airline crew spotted ‘a guy in a jetpack’ as they approached Los Angeles International Airport at 3,000ft on Sunday evening
‘It’s very, very unlikely with the existing technology,’ said Mayman.
‘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.
‘They’d run out of fuel, they use fuel too quickly,’ Mayman continued. ‘If it’s a real jetpack, its noisy. People would have heard it take off and land.’
While Mayman speculated that it could have been a drone, he added that 3,000 feet was also on the high end of what most drones were capable of.
Myman told CBS that his company is under contract with the military to research and develop jetpack technology but their aircraft are not for sale.
He believes that if the pilots did see a jetpack, it was likely ‘whoever flew this probably built it themselves’.
Jetpack Aviation, located in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, is now on its second research and development contract with the military, according to the Los Angeles Times.
It began its first contract in 2016 but says it did not sell any of the devices, despite working toward a prototype. They had also trained at least one Navy Seal on the rig.
In 2019, Jetpack Aviation had expected to have an individual lift devices, or ILD, ready as a prototype for testing by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOC) by that summer.
David Mayman, CEO of Jetpack Aviation, claims current technology would make the Sunday jetpack sighting almost impossible. Pictured, ‘Jetpack Man’ flies during the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championships in Cannes
The company told Stars & Stripes that is was the ‘first and only company’ to develop jetpack technology for USSOC.
‘The possible uses of this technology are still being evaluated. USSOCOM does not discuss specific details or potential applications of such technologies,’ they said.
‘We work together with their operators, with their team members, for exactly what our jetpacks would need to be useful on a real mission — endurance, height, speed, payload, that sort of thing.’
The second contract is now looking to develop a Speeder aircraft that looks more like a motorbike.
It can be flown by a person or used like a drone and has been described by the company as the ‘world’s first flying motorcycle’ with the mission ‘to save lives’.
According to their website, the Speeder is jet-powered and can take off and land anywhere.
‘It is hands down the fastest way to get a person or cargo across town especially into or out of a high stakes environment be it military, emergency or disaster,’ they say.
The company believes it could be used to get a paramedic to their patient faster, moves patients to hospitals quicker, medevac wounded personnel from battlefield, or to move equipment or cargo into position where it would be inefficient or too risky to use a helicopter.
Jetpack Aviation is developing the Speeder, pictured above. It has been described by the company as the ‘world’s first flying motorcycle’ with the mission ‘to save lives’
It adds that the aircraft is hoped to have an operating ceiling of 15,000ft, a maximum speed of 150mph, and can last between 20 and 30 minutes.
A scaled prototype of the Speeder is currently being tested.
Jetpack Aviation says it is also the first to have developed a jetpack that can work like a backpack.
They have five and Mayman himself showcased what they could do by flying one around the Statue of Liberty five years ago.
He confirmed to the LA Times that none of these were involved in Sunday’s incident and that the company does not sell them.
They do offer lessons for $4,950 but students are tied to a wire and unable to travel far, and if they were to ever sell, it would not be for less than $300,000.
Mayman claims his competitors also don’t place their aircraft on the market.
For him, selling a jetpack remains too risky unless it is to the government or government agencies.
‘It’s so easy for someone to misuse one of these aircraft,’ he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI said Tuesday they are investigating the jetpack reports at LAX last weekend.
‘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.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller also told the Los Angeles 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.
LAX, pictured, is one of the busiest air spaces in the country and if a person was found to have flown a jetpack in the area, it could result in a $1,100 to $27,500 fine
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 , 10-mile final,’ the controller said.
Depending on where exactly the jetpack was located, and if the reports are confirmed, the flier could face a hefty fine for the stunt.
Business Insider reports that the FAA views jetpacks as ‘ultralight’ aircraft which means they are banned from flying ‘over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons’ such as LAX airspace.
It could result in a $1,100 to $27,500 fine.
Flying at this altitude with a jetpack is not typical, according to Fox 11, and would certainly not be capable of flying for a long period of time.
‘Even the most technologically advanced jetpacks can only fly very briefly so its possible this person may have come up and he may have gone down and driven away,’ aviation safety expert Steve Cowell told the station.
According to The Verge, a jetpack reached furthered than 3,000ft in Dubai just last February. Pilot Vince Reffet using a jet-powered, carbon-fiber suit to launch off the ground and fly 6,000 feet in the air.
However, he needed a parachute to get back to ground and none was spotted on Sunday.