Up in the sky! Is it a bird? A plane? A guy in a jet pack? Well, yes to those last two. On Sunday, two pilots — one of American Airlines Flight 1997 from Philadelphia and one of JetBlue Flight 23 — reported seeing a Tony Stark wannabe flying around among the clouds at 3,000 feet as they approached Los Angeles International Airport. Yes, seriously.
According to the New York Times, this Boba Fett-esque daredevil now has the FBI and FAA on his case. The bounty hunter is now the hunted. But before people write the sighting off as a mistake or sci-fi hoax, know that it's actually possible. In fact, in Feburary, Jetman Dubai pilot Vince Reffett shot a jet-powered wingsuit up 3,200 feet in just thirty seconds. So someone flying around up there is possible — just dangerous, unlikely, and very strange.
“Tower, American 1997 — we just passed a guy in a jet pack,” the American Airlines pilot told air traffic control, according to an archived recording. “Were they off to your left side or right side?” the controller asked. It was the left.
Then the second pilot radioed in, mentioning the same unbelievable sight. Then the controller quipped, “Only in L.A.”
The problem isn't that man isn't meant to soar through the sky like Iron Man, but that it's dangerous to do so — and it's against FAA regulations. If fans can't fly a drone around an airport, they certainly can't take to the skies themselves. So the improbable jet-packer is under investigation — not just for the Jetsons-esque technology that allowed him to achieve and maintain such height (though it would need to be cutting-edge tech) but for choosing a conspicuous and hazardous locale to show it off.
The NYT cites L.A.-based JetPack Aviation as a company where this technology could've originated, as its JetPack can "reach up to 15,000 feet in altitude and can be operated for about 10 minutes." But it's not like they're for sale to tourists or even super-rich superhero hopefuls. “Honestly, we don’t know who’s working on a machine that would be foolish enough or reckless enough to do that,” said JetPack Aviation founder David Mayman.
For now the flying man remains a mystery.