By any stretch of the imagination, 2020 has been a pretty weird year. One of the weirdest things has got to be the appearance of "jetpack man" in the skies over Los Angeles International Airport, known as LAX.
On Sunday, August 30, 2020, three separate pilots, one flying American Airlines Flight 1997, one flying for Sky West, and one operating Jet Blue Flight 23, all reported to Air Traffic Control (ATC) seeing "a guy in a jetpack" cruising at an elevation of 3,000 feet (914 m) within the airport's 10-mile final approach area.
The Fox News station in LA reported the following communication between ATC and the pilots, which you can listen to:
American Flight 1997: "Tower, American 1997, we just passed a guy in a jetpack."
Tower: "American 1997, OK, thank you. Were they off to your left or right side?"
American Flight 1997: "Off the left side, maybe 300 yards (274 mt) or so, about our altitude."
Skywest Flight: "We just saw the guy passing by us in the jetpack."
ATC alerted an incoming Jet Blue flight to the reported hazard:
Tower: "Jet Blue 23, use caution, a person in a jetpack reported 300 yards south of the LA final at about 3,000 feet, 10 mile (~17 km) final."
Jet Blue 23: "Jet Blue 23, we heard and we are definitely looking."
This wasn't the last sighting of "jetpack man" either." On October 14, 2020 at 1:45 p.m., the crew of China Airlines Flight 006, a Boeing 777 traveling to LAX from Taipei, Taiwan, reported seeing "jetpack man" flying at the extraordinary altitude of 6,000 feet, (1,829 mt) around seven miles northwest of LAX.
China Airlines 006: "We just saw a bright object at 6,000."
LAX Tower: "006 heavy can you say that one more time please?"
China Airlines 006: "We saw a flying object like a [this part is hard to decipher, but it sounded like] flight suit jetpack at 6,000."
LAX Tower: "Was it a UAV or was it a jetpack?"
China Airlines 006: "Like a jetpack. Too shiny. It’s too far."
LAX Tower: "006 heavy, roger, thank you… Emirates 215 heavy there was a jetpack reported about 13 miles ahead."
"Jetpack man" caught on camera
On December 21, 2020, a video was taken on board an instruction flight being made by the Sling Pilot Academy, and it has just been released. The airplane was flying over the strait between Palos Verdes, California and Catalina Island when it encountered what certainly looks like "jetpack man" who was flying at his favorite altitude of 3,000 feet. The video shows him passing the plane on its right side while traveling in the opposite direction.
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There was no radio communication between the Sling Pilot Academy plane and "jetpack man", and following the sighting, Sling reported the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
What makes this video so extraordinary is that aviation experts have said that jetpacks normally have only very short ranges, and they aren't designed to fly at an altitude of 3,000 feet. This implies that whatever technology "jetpack man" is using, it could be revolutionary, however, it is also very dangerous. Should "jetpack man" get sucked into a jet's engine, it could bring down the entire airplane.
Yves Rossy, a real life "jetpack man"
Swiss pilot Yves Rossy flew Dassault Mirage IIIs, Northrop F-5 Tiger IIs, and Hawker Hunters during his military career, then flew Boeing 747s for Swissair and Swiss International Air Lines during his civilian aviation career.
Rossy developed a wingsuit system that incorporated semi-rigid carbon-fiber wings that have a span of 7.9 feet (2.4 mt), combined with four Jetcat P400 jet engines which are normally used in model aircraft.
Using this jetpack system, Rossy became the first person to fly horizontally for six minutes during a test flight in December 2006 over Bex, Switzerland. In May 2008, Rossy flew over the Alps, reaching a top speed of 189 mph (304 km/h).
On September 26, 2008, Rossy crossed the English Channel, making the trip in only 13 minutes. He had been dropped from an airplane over Calais, France, and he landed using a parachute in Dover, England. A trip in November 2009 from Tangier, Morocco to Atlanterra, Spain ended with Rossy ditching in the ocean.
On October 13, 2015, Rossy along with the late Vince Reffet flew over Dubai alongside an Emirates Airbus A380 airplane, the largest passenger aircraft in the world, and at an altitude of 4,000 feet (1,219 mt). Video of this feat has to be seen to be believed.
Sadly, on November 17, 2020, Vince Reffert died during a training flight in Dubai. He was 36-years-old.