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Are Jetpacks Legal? Will They Be Legal?

A man in a silver spandex suit with an old pilot's hat and a jetpack on pointing to the sky while standing in the great salt flats
By Andrew Leonatti | Last updated on

We're gonna skip all the clichéd jokes about Superman, UFOs, and The Rocketeer (look it up, kids) and get straight to the point: Twice in the last two months, a person flying a jetpack has been spotted near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The first time, you could maybe write it off as a pilot misidentifying a drone or some other type of aerial vehicle. But twice? It seems we've got ourselves a flying man in Los Angeles, and the federal government doesn't seem too pleased about it.

Look! Up in the Sky!

(Had to.)

In late August, pilots on an American Airlines flight radioed the LAX air traffic control tower to report a "guy in a jetpack" about 30 yards from the plane. The other thing that caught everyone's attention: The UFJP was at the same altitude as the plane, which was 3,000 feet. While that's not that high for a commercial jet, that's pretty high for a person!

Another flight also spotted the jetpacker (sp?).

Then, on October 14, a China Airlines crew on approach to LAX reported a jetpack at an altitude of 6,000 feet approximately 7 miles from the airport. A law enforcement aircraft that went to scope out the area found nothing.

In a statement, the FBI said it is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to investigate the sightings.

Drone Laws Likely Apply for Jetpacks

So, if you are the jetpacker in question, the fact that the FBI is mentioning you should make you a little nervous. LAX is one of the country's busiest airports, and there are several other airports in the Los Angeles region, making it a rather congested area of airspace.

And while there are currently no federal regulations regarding jetpacks, the FAA would likely attempt to apply the same regulations used for drones. Those include:

  • FAA registration for vehicles weighing more than 8.8 ounces
  • Operating only during daylight hours
  • Flying at or below 400 feet above the ground
  • Keeping a drone within the pilot's line of sight while flying
  • Avoiding restricted airspace (such as near airports!) and flying near other aircraft
  • Not flying under the influence of drugs and alcohol

These are only a few of the rules applying to both commercial and amateur drone operators. Commercial operators may get waivers from the FAA to operate in restricted airspace or at higher altitudes, but you need prior permission to do this.

So while these rules may not yet apply to jetpacks, if our wannabe Rocketeer keeps showing up, it is likely that some more ironclad rules will be put in place.

In the meantime, the rest of us can get mad about the fact that it's 2020 and we don't all have jetpacks and flying cars already.

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