FBI floats a working theory on the ‘jet pack man’ flying above L.A.

At LAX circa 2004, the Encounter restaurant atop the Theme Building
At LAX circa 2004, it appears a spaceship has landed. In truth, it’s just the Encounter restaurant atop the Theme Building. The restaurant closed years ago, but the building remains.
(David McNew / Getty Images)

Has the FBI solved the mysterious case of the “jet pack man”?

Multiple sightings of what some said looked like a man flying in a jet pack in the skies of Los Angeles prompted a federal investigation.

This week authorities offered some details about the probe.

“The FBI has worked closely with the FAA to investigate reported jet pack sightings in the Los Angeles area, none of which have been verified,” read an FBI statement. “One working theory is that pilots might have seen balloons.”


Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI, said that so far agents had not been able to confirm exactly what pilots claimed to have seen.

The first sighting occurred Aug. 30, when an American Airlines pilot radioed in with an unbelievable report. “Tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in a jet pack,” the pilot said. Minutes later came another report, this time from a pilot approaching LAX in a Jet Blue airliner: “We just saw the guy pass us by in the jet pack.”

Then in October, a China Airlines pilot approaching LAX reported seeing a jet pack flying at an altitude of 6,000 feet.

In December 2020, video popular on social media showed what appeared to be a person with a jet pack flying off the coast of the Palos Verdes Peninsula at around 3,000 feet.

There are few jet packs in the world, and experts have said they doubt that the sightings are really a man flying around the L.A. Basin. For one thing, the altitude reported by pilots would be difficult to maintain with the fuel capacity of a jet pack.

Witnesses interviewed by The Times claimed to have seen a human-shaped object that changed direction rapidly rather than just floating.

Some experts speculate that “jet pack man” is actually a dummy or balloon attached to a drone to resemble a person with a jet pack. Some European drone enthusiasts have developed such a model.