Jetpacks and Wingwalking: 2020 keeps getting weirder
Twenty-twenty was always an interesting sounding year, popular with futurists and science fiction writers for having something of a ring to it, a year in which clean fuel and commercial space travel and Jetson-style jetpacks could be a reality.
Well, we might have been right about one of them.
Last week, Fox 11 broke the story of the bizarre report from the flight crew of American 1997 inbound to Los Angeles International Airport reported seeing “a guy in a jetpack” flying just off of their wing.
Here’s an edited copy of the audio file from LiveATC highlighting the incident:
|American 1997:||Tower, American 1997, we just passed a guy in a jetpack!|
|Controller:||American 1997, OK… thank you. Were they off to your left or right side?|
|American 1997:||Off the left side. Uh. Maybe uh 300… 300 yards or so? At about our altitude.|
|SkyWest:||Tower, SkyWest 3961. We just saw the guy passing by us in the jetpack.|
|Controller:||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.|
|Unidentified Pilot:||Only in LA.|
On the Professional Pilot’s Rumour Network, the conversation has shifted to differences in approach.
Gatwick had a (suspected only) drone near the airport, and was disorganised/closed for days.
LAX has someone jetpacking around the approach and … issues a caution.
It’s not quite the same thing of course and the drone was better documented than Jetpack Guy was
I guess the difference might be that a guy in a jetpack is likely to have a basic sense of self-preservation and to avoid actual collision; whereas someone with a drone could easily fly it into the path of an aircraft without danger to himself.
Which is also an interesting argument but another commenter shoots it down:
Not sure I’d put much faith in the self-preservation instincts of someone who intentionally flies a jetpack to withing a few hundred yards of the LAX approach path…
No one has come forward to admit to having been in LAX airspace in an unregistered jetpack (not that there’s any such thing as a registered jetpack). The FBI is investigating.
I couldn’t help thinking of Lawnchair Larry when I first heard about this, another “only in LA” incident. Larry Walters was a truck driver working for FilmFair Studios. He’d been rejected by the US Air Force because of his poor eyesight. He never lost the desire to fly and clung to a childhood dream of floating into the sky using weather balloons.
When he was thirty-three, he decided the time had come to try it. He purchased 45 eight-foot weather balloons and used a forged requisition from his employer to purchase helium tanks to fill them with. He tied a lawnchair to his jeep and attached 43 of the balloons to it. He sat down with a CB radio and a pellet gun in his lap (to shoot the balloons individually for his descent) and a friend cut him free.
The lawnchair swiftly rose to 16,000 feet and was reported by the flight crew of two commercial airliners (TWA and Delta). Realising he was drifting into controlled airspace, he used the radio to contact an emergency CB channel and asked them to relay a message to the airport.
Operator: What information do you wish me to tell at this time as to your location and your difficulty?
Larry: Ah, the difficulty is, ah, this was an unauthorized balloon launch, and, uh, I know I’m in a federal airspace, and, uh, I’m sure my ground crew has alerted the proper authority. But, uh, just call them and tell them I’m okay.
He descended by shooting the balloons one by one, making sure to keep them balanced. It almost worked until the very end of the descent when his balloon cables got tangled into a power line and he fell to the ground, where members of the Long Beach Police Department were waiting for him.
The case was passed to the FAA who wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
In the New York Times archive: Truck Driver Takes to Skies in a Lawn Chair
“We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, some type of charge will be filed,” [Regional safety inspector] Mr. Savoy said. “If he had a pilot’s license, we’d suspend that. But he doesn’t.”
In further bizarre news, a young mother returning home from holiday on Ukraine International Airlines opened the emergency exit and walked out onto the wing after the aircraft had landed in Kiev.
The video and photographs being published in the news as “Credit: Instagram” which doesn’t really count as credit, in my book. I’ve also seen it credited to “Borys Pilchany”, presumably a confused reference to Boryspil Airport where Ukraine International Airlines is based. Certainly the video was posted on Boryspil Airport’s instagram feed which may have been the original source:
A passenger said they had disembarked when they looked up to see someone on wing. The passenger said two children were also watching and one said, “This is our mum.”
Ukrainian Airlines have confirmed that the woman is now blacklisted from flying with them.
Maybe she needs to buy some weather balloons or make friends with Jetpack Man.