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And now for something completely different


Airline Pilots Landing At LAX Report A Guy In Jetpack Flying Alongside Them

Fox 11 broke the story and has the air traffic control audio clips which you can listen to here. The exchanges went like this according to their report:

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 or so, about our altitude.”

Fox 11 reports a Skywest pilot confirmed the sighting:

Skywest Flight: “We just saw the guy passing by us in the jetpack.”

Then the tower 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 final.”

Jet Blue 23: “Jet Blue 23, we heard and we are definitely looking.”

No mystery at all.  He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • ghostsniper September 8, 2020, 5:55 PM

    Since it’s been established that persons with minimal knowledge can commandeer a passenger jst and kill thousands of people, is it so far fetched to believe the same type of people could do something similar with a jet powered wing? You know, fly up behind and above it then land on it’s back, and set off a vest. Not only does everybody onboard meet their demise but if the jet is over a major metropolis there will be steep collateral damage on the ground. Besides, I thought it was illegal for anyone to fly close to commercial planes.

  • PA Cat September 8, 2020, 6:43 PM

    Almost 11 years ago now . . . the Balloon Boy episode, only above Colorado rather than L.A.:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83dVuMycWis&ab_channel=InsideEdition

    In regard to commercial aviation, other news accounts at the time stated that several planes were rerouted around the balloon’s flight path. Daddy-o ended up serving 90 days in jail for the hoax and paying $36,000 in restitution. My cousin, who was a full captain for American Airlines at the time (he’s retired now), said that this kind of amateur tomfoolery is every pilot’s nightmare.

  • CCW September 8, 2020, 6:52 PM

    The Rocketeer is one of my favorite movies.
    James Horner wrote the music… the opening score is sublime.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXbL0iukdCo

  • Roger.45 September 8, 2020, 7:10 PM

    ATC: “Caution wake turbulence arriving jet.”
    Then the asshole flying the jetpack has unrecoverable oscillations and winds up a decal on the streets of LA.
    Stupid tricks win stupid prizes. Sure hope it was fun.

  • azlibertarian September 8, 2020, 9:06 PM

    So I guess as an airline pilot based at LAX, maybe I should chime in here.

    It should surprise no one that the most common airborne threats are birds. About 3 years ago, I hit a gull at about 1000′ three miles out from landing right on the copilot’s windscreen. It left a smear of guts and most of the remains hung on the windshield wiper until we landed. We in the business have known this forever, but Sully showed everyone that a flock of birds (especially large birds) can bring down an airplane. [BTW, you probably don’t know that a birdstrike requires a mechanic’s inspection for damage, and the whole event goes into a FAA database.]

    But very occasionally…like maybe once every 4 or 5 years….you can see something unusual while on an approach. Most of these times it is either a single or bunch of mylar balloons escaped from some kid’s birthday party [insert an image of a crying 5 year old here]. Even more rarely (2 or 3 times in a 32 year career), I’ve seen more substantial balloons…like a weather balloon.

    I’m not denying that some knucklehead in a jet pack decided to see what the traffic looks like on the final approach to LAX. His one smart move here was to perform this stupid stunt when the airlines are now flying something like half of their former schedules. But other than that, and the adrenaline rush aside, this was a really, really stupid thing to do.

    But I’m sorry ghostsniper, I can’t see your scenario of a suicidal guy with a jet pack taking down a plane. While an airborne kamikaze attack is possible, it would take some targeting information, and those jet pack guys don’t have much fuel to wait around for or maneuver towards an inbound flight. If he were sincerely out to bring down a plane, he’d be better off equipping a team of 5 or 6 with Barretts, some very good scopes and a ton of luck.

  • ghostsniper September 9, 2020, 6:52 AM

    az, not to get in a pissing contest here but, the vid did show a dood right up close to the jet. Would it be THAT difficult for him to swoop down, grab onto an antenna mast, rudder, whetever, and instantly hit the switch? Or, for that matter, since we’re talking suicide here, just fly up next to hit and hit the button, or even just fly right into the throat of an engine?

    A Barrett like you described is about $10k each, x5 or 6 doods = $50-60k. Trying to get half a doz doods to coordinate on something so illegal would be next to impossible. In the army we were taught how to take down a jet at the squad level (12 doods) with M16’s on full auto and we were told we would have at best a 10% chance of being successful.

    Remember, we are talking about maniacs here, it doesn’t have to make sense to us.

  • gwbnyc September 9, 2020, 8:17 AM

    years back a guy tethered big helium balloons to a lawn chair and took off, he had a bb pistol to pop the balloons to descend- had something to do with proposing to his girlfriend. arizona, maybe.

  • azlibertarian September 9, 2020, 9:44 AM

    Yeah, ghost, I saw that brief clip of a guy in a jet pack flying next to an airliner. I’m pretty sure that they took that clip from this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VPvKl6ezyc

    And in that video, you’re going to see a lot of coordinated flying. They–the jet pack pilots, and their company, Emirates and the Emirates pilots, the camera operators and the pilots flying the aircraft carrying those cameras and operators, to name just a few–will have drawn up this stunt, planned it down to the “T”, all to get that promotional video for Emirates and their A-380 (A white elephant, if you ask me. But I digress).

    Only some of that will happen in your terrorist-in-a-jet-pack scenario. Sure–the terrorist gets to plan his side of the attack. But again, how does he place himself in the same box of airspace at the same time and at the same speed as his intended target (especially given his limited fuel)? It would work in Tom Cruise’s next Mission Impossible movie (which again will have been planned down to the nano-dot), but as a terror attack? I still don’t buy it.

    And while I brought up the team with a Barrett scenario, that too won’t work. Yeah, the guns themselves are very expensive…as you say, in the neighborhood of $10 large each. What you don’t say, but what you and I both know, is that decent optics for that sort of gun will run you another $10k. So the expense of a Barrett scenario is an obstacle. But that is only the start. A Barrett isn’t a terribly accurate gun. From the little bit of internet searching I’ve done, it looks like 2 MOA might be about all you can hope for. [In fairness, the Barrett wasn’t designed to be accurate…you don’t need to be accurate when you’re designing a gun to go against thin-skinned vehicles.] A long time ago–like not long after 9/11–I think it was Kim du Toit who wrote an article debunking the fear of bringing down an airliner with a .50 cal. I’m paraphrasing, but my memory of the jist was that even if you sat at the end of the runway and aimed at an airliner accelerating straight towards you for takeoff, this was still an extraordinarily difficult shot to make. And the key was accounting for the varying (accelerating) speed of the plane and placing your bullet at the same point that the aircraft was passing through, at the same time. The drop of a .50 cal at 1000 yards is something like 270 inches (22 feet). I offer this with my standard Public Math Caution, but at 100kts, a plane is covering 168 feet/second. Making this shot would have to account for your 22 foot drop against a target moving towards you at 168 feet every second. Doing this against a static (or nearly-static) target is done all the time. But at a target moving at 100-, 150- or 180-knots, while theoretically possible, as a practical matter, it just isn’t going to happen. You might get lucky enough to hit a critical component, or heaven forbid, a critical pilot, but any success here would be due to that luck and not your skill. Again, the targeting–in this scenario, through your optics–is an obstacle that you aren’t going to be able to overcome.

    As you say, 12 guys doing what I will presume would be a 30-round mag dump of .223 might yield you a 10% chance of bringing down a plane. Said another way, it is a 90% failure rate.

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