Although jetpacks have moved from the domain of sci-fi to reality in recent times, it seems multiple sightings of a man flying over Los Angeles using one of the devices may have a much simpler explanation: balloons.
The first sighting came back in August last year when American Airlines pilots radioed in that “We just passed a guy in a jetpack.” Another pilot, this one approaching LAX in a Jet Blue airliner a few minutes later, also reported a jetpack flyer passing their plane.
Another report arrived in October from a China Airlines pilot flying at 6,000 feet, followed by a sighting in July this year. There was also a video shared on social media in December 2020 that showed what appeared to be someone with a jetpack flying at around 3,000 feet off the coast of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
While jetpacks are real, such as this one used by a UK paramedic, the chances of this being a man flying around like The Rocketeer seemed unlikely, though we did see a jetpack pilot reach 6,000 feet last year from a ground take-off rather than an elevated platform.
Now, it appears that the mystery has been solved. The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigated the reported sightings, none of which had been verified. The organizations say the working theory is that the pilots may have seen balloons.
The conclusion seems all the more likely given the images taken by a police helicopter (above) in November 2020, a couple of weeks after the second sighting. They show what looks like an inflatable balloon character, possibly Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, floating several thousand feet above LA—one would assume it broke away from a Halloween display.
However, witnesses interviewed by the Los Angeles Times claim to have seen a human-shaped object that changed direction rapidly rather than just floated, leading to speculation that what people saw was a dummy or balloon attached to a drone to resemble a person with a jetpack, something that European drone enthusiasts have already developed.