What to Know
- Pictures show what appears to be a human-shaped inflatable toy floating thousands of feet above the Holmby Hills and Beverly Hills areas.
- They were captured in early November 2020, about two weeks after the second of the three sightings reported by jetliner pilots.
- A law enforcement official speculated that it was part of a Halloween decoration which broke loose and floated away.
Authorities investigating a series of possible jetpack sightings over Los Angeles believe they may have identified an explanation for the mysterious reports - one that requires no fuel, no engines, and no high-flying technology.
"One working theory is that pilots might have seen balloons," the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal Aviation Administration said in statements, after NBC Los Angeles obtained police video and photos that appear to show a human-shaped inflatable toy floating thousands of feet above Beverly Hills.
The crew aboard an LAPD helicopter captured the images last year, about two weeks after the second reported sighting of a jet pack a few miles further south over the Culver City or Century City areas. The inflatable appeared to be a life-sized 'Jack Skellington' - the main character in Tim Burton's 1993 movie "A Nightmare Before Christmas."
While officials told NBC Los Angeles that the police encounter could have been a single balloon that broke loose from a Halloween display and drifted into the sky, it also emboldened one theory shared among federal authorities investigating the sightings: that pilots might have seen human-shaped inflatables or other balloons that had drifted into the landing approach routes into LAX.
There have been three sightings reported by pilots lining up to land at Los Angeles International Airport.
One was on August 30, 2020, 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 30, 2020 by an American Airlines flight crew on final approach to LAX. Another happened nearly two months later, on Oct. 14, when the pilot of a China Airlines flight said there was an object sighted at around 6,000 feet over Culver City or Century City, and responded yes when an air traffic controller asked if the object resembled a jet pack.
The third, earlier this year on July 28, occurred at approximately 6:10 p.m., when the pilot of a Kalitta Air Cargo 747 on approach to LAX over the Santa Fe Springs and Whittier areas told air traffic controllers he could see the 'jet man' off his right wing at an altitude of approximately 5,000 feet.
Officials said Monday that after more than a year of investigation federal agents had been unable to find additional witnesses who saw, or recorded video, of any of the flying objects reported by the pilots either in flight or falling to the ground.
"The FAA has worked closely with the FBI to investigate every reported jetpack sighting," the FAA said. "So far, none of these sightings have been verified."
The LAPD video was provided to federal investigators some months ago. It was recorded in early November, 2020 by two officers on a routine patrol flight near the Hollywood Hills.
Retired airline pilot and aviation consultant Ross Aimer said Monday the balloon images seem to fit with what the jet pilots reported.
"This now explains that this could possibly be what they saw," Aimer said.
He told NBC LA that he believed pilots had made honest reports to air traffic controllers, but at the high relative speed of a jetliner on approach, the flight crews may have only caught a glimpse of the objects.
"There's a very good possibility the previous ones were also balloons and pilots mistook them as jetpacks," Aimer said. "This is a better explanation to me and to the aviation community."