LOS ANGELES – Authorities investigating a series of possible jetpack observations over Los Angeles believe they may have identified the real culprit – one that requires no fuel, no engines and no high-flying technology.
“One working theory is that pilots may have seen balloons,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Aviation Administration said in statements to NBC Los Angeles.
The theory was supported after photos taken by a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter crew last year showed a human-shaped balloon – believed to be a life-size Jack Skellington, by Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas” – hovering thousands of feet over Beverly Hills.
The photos, taken by NBC Los Angeles, showed what could have been a single balloon from a Halloween decoration that broke loose and drifted into the sky.
There have been three observations over Los Angeles International Airport – one on August 30, 2020, another almost two months later, on October 14, and a third earlier this year, on July 28.
In all three cases, commercial airline pilots said they saw what appeared to be jetpacks flying at altitudes of 3,000 feet; 6,000 feet; and 5,000 feet.
None of the sightings have been verified, federal authorities said.
David Mayman, CEO of Los Angeles-based Jetpack Aviation, said last year that jetpacks were not a plausible explanation. The machines produced by his company – none of which had been sold – hold only a dozen gallons of fuel, or worth about 10 minutes, and could not have reached the heights described by the pilots.
“Climbing and descending – it takes some time to do that,” he said, adding, “You just wanted to run out of fuel.”
Maymans theory? A battery-powered drone, loaded with an inflatable mannequin and flown far away.
“Any teenager could put this together with parts from China,” he said. “You might be talking about a skilled high school kid or a college kid – they could really easily build something like that.”