LA spending $1 billion on jetpacks? Er, no

Fox News reports that LA is to spend $1 billion equipping its police, paramedics, and fire department with jetpacks so they can fly around. Sadly, this turns out to be untrue.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Fox News is sometimes criticized for floating wayward ideas.

This criticism is unfair and unbalanced. The station understands its viewers better than any other and offers them a fine and subtle mixture of both fear and reassurance.

However, perhaps Fox News' "Fox and Friends" allowed its enthusiasm this week to fly a little too high. For the station reported that the city of LA had invested $1 billion in a jetpack called the Martin. The suggestion was that LA's police, paramedics, and fire department were in grave need of such a flying gizmo. This is entirely understandable, given LA's quite hopeless traffic situation.

Though "Fox and Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade did offer words of caution: "You gotta make up some rules because you're going to have jetpacks flying into choppers," I have to report that the Fox report is rather untrue.

For LAPD chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times: "We certainly haven't bought any jetpacks. We haven't bought [squad] cars for two years."

While trying to muzzle my disappointment with the LAPD for such obvious technological myopia, I am grateful to Gawker for attempting to discover where Fox News might have done its flying sourcing.

Gawker suggests that the information might have come straight from Weekly World News. Should you be unfamiliar with this publication, you will find it at Safeway, just above the chewing gum. Sometimes, its world news is worldly, but not entirely news.

And, indeed, its jetpack story offered not merely that LA had made its purchase of 10,000 Martin Jetpacks, but quoted LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as saying: "We'll be flying around LA soon. And it's another great tool for law enforcement."

The Martin Jetpack is, though, a vastly serious product that comes from the Martin Aircraft Company. It was, says the company's Web site, "originally designed with the leisure market in mind."

And it "consists of a purpose-built gasoline engine driving twin ducted fans which produce sufficient thrust to lift the aircraft and a pilot in vertical takeoff and landing, enabling sustained flight."

This would surely be perfect for LA's public servants. So, though Fox News did, indeed, retract its report, one can only commend the station for its unusual optimism.