We’ve hit a point in 2020 where nothing is all that surprising anymore. Carole Baskin of Tiger King fame cursed us with a very questionable 50 Cent cover, you can now crack open a cold one with your dog. Oh, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic that somehow seems to leave us with more questions every single day. In any other year, what happened to these pilots as they were approaching LAX last Sunday would have left us flabbergasted. This year, all we can really say is, “yeah, that sounds about right.”
3,000 feet in the air, one baffled American Airlines pilot contacted the control tower with an unusual issue. According to LiveATC.net, the first pilot to make the call was traveling from Philadelphia to L.A.. “Tower, American 1997,” he said, “we just passed a guy in a jetpack.”
The perplexed air traffic controllers tried to collect more details, learning that the airborne airhead was just about 300 yards away from the plane. Before long, a SkyWest pilot called the control tower confirming, “tower, we just saw the guy pass by us.”
While there are jetpacks that can reach altitudes of 3,000 or more, the hefty price tag combined with the technical skills a person would need to operate them leads to the assumption that they’d also learn some of the regulations. Or, at the very least, they’d realize that flying them near one of the world’s busiest airports is at best a bad idea.
The Los Angeles Police Department was contacted, as commercial airline airspace is highly regulated near airports. For safety reasons, it would have been illegal for anyone but the assigned pilots to fly there. After sending out helicopters to try to track down the hovering hooligan, the LAPD returned empty-handed. The identity of the man in the jetpack remains a mystery.
Although this jetpack sighting was a first for these pilots, according to the FAA, unmanned aircraft sighting reports have drastically increased over the past two years, and the agency now receives about 100 such reports per month. More people than ever are operating drones, but many don’t take the time to learn the rules and regulations for doing so. “The agency wants to send out a clear message that operating drones around airplanes, helicopters and airports is dangerous and illegal” the FAA website states.
The investigation into the flying felon is ongoing, but hopefully, in the future, he remembers to stay grounded.