Image source, LAPDImage caption, A police helicopter captured what appears to be an inflatable Halloween decoration floating over LA

Investigators looking into a series of sightings of a mysterious "jetpack man" flying over Los Angeles say they may in fact have been balloons.

The FBI launched an investigation after several pilots reported spotting "a guy in a jetpack" at 3,000ft (915m) above the city's LAX airport last year.

But now officials say the pilots may have seen inflatables.

Police helicopter footage apparently shows a Halloween decoration that broke loose and drifted into the sky.

The images show what appears to be life-sized balloon effigy of Jack Skellington, from the 1993 Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Three commercial airline pilots have reported seeing a jetpack flying near the airport in the past year.

"We just passed a guy on a jetpack," a pilot told air traffic controllers in August 2020.

"You don't hear that every day!" a controller replied.

As the controller advised the pilot to be cautious, he added: "Only in LA."

In October 2020, another aircraft crew reported seeing a jetpack flying at 6,000ft, seven miles (11km) north-west of LAX.

This July, a third sighting was reported by a Boeing 747 pilot at 5,000ft over Los Angeles.

After over a year of investigations, officials from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said they had been unable to find any other witnesses who saw the flying objects.

"The FAA has worked closely with the FBI to investigate every reported jetpack sighting," a spokesman said. "So far, none of these sightings have been verified."

But he added: "One working theory is that pilots might have seen balloons."

A video published by NBC News this week showed an object floating freely above Beverley Hills. The images were captured by a police helicopter in November 2020, about two weeks after the second sighting and around Halloween.

The jetpack sighting theory had drawn scepticism from jetpack manufacturers.

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They said most jetpacks did not carry enough fuel to fly for more than a few minutes, meaning it was difficult for them to get very high.

Mark Weiss, a former American Airlines captain, said although it was uncommon for balloons to get in the path of aircrafts, it could still be "a very startling experience" for pilots.

"If you see it coming towards you, you might need to do an abrupt manoeuvre – and you put the passengers at risk," he told the BBC.

While a balloon would generally be harmless to planes, he said, if it had metal parts attached "it could potentially destroy an engine".