Article from Southern California Public Radio on Catalina Project

Newport Beach jet pack ‘Rocketeer’ hopes to fly to Catalina, set world record

Dean O'Malley Jet Lev

Ben Bergman/KPCC

Newport Beach adventurer Dean O’Malley will try to set a world record this weekend when he flies from Newport to Catalina Island using a new type of jet pack, powered by water.

With a handful of reporters and a few very curious beachgoers looking on, O’Malley gave a demonstration on Tuesday: He cranked up the jet pack and soared above Newport Harbor, landing off Bayside Beach and wading onshore to talk about his expedition.

He’s aiming to fly 26 miles to Catalina using what’s called a JetLev.

“It feels like you are literally hovering above the earth below you,” explained O’Malley. “Hence the name, JetLev, or Jet Levitation. So it’s that concept of literally just floating above the Earth.”

Sadly, Jetsons-like space travel will have to wait.

The JetLev can fly only 30 feet high, and its top speed is only around 30 miles an hour.

It looks sort of like a jet pack with a long hose that drags along in the water.

“The concept is you have an engine and a water pump, says O’Malley. “It sucks water up underneath. In a Jet Ski, it pushes out back to go forward. Here, it sends the water out in the front to the backpack. So you’re using the water pressure to send you into the air.”

O’Malley says operating the JetLev is relatively easy. In fact, his day job is giving lessons to beginners in Newport Harbor.

Flying over open ocean is a whole different story. There’s weather to worry about, equipment failures, and even sharks. But O’Malley is an extreme sports junkie, and he says he’s gotten no greater thrill than blasting across the water with a JetLev strapped to his back.

“I’ve done sky diving, hand gliding, parasailing, you name it,” says O’Malley. “This is a completely different sensation where you feel like you’re in control rather than skydiving where you’re falling through the sky. Here you’re harnessing the power to go through the air.”

“It’s as close to being a super hero as you can get,” says O’Malley.

O’Malley says he’s embarking on his Newport Beach-to-Catalina adventure to commemorate the 100th anniversary of American aviation pioneer Glenn Martin’s flight along the same route.

In 1912, Martin set what was then the record for the longest flight over open ocean.

O’Malley takes off for his record breaking attempt just after sunrise on Saturday.

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