Modern rocketeer flies jet pack to set a world record, blasting from Newport Beach to Catalina Island

Dean O'Malley Jet Lev

Ben Bergman/KPCC

Adventurer Dean O'Malley blasts his way across Newport Harbor with a Jet Lev strapped to his back. O'Malley wants to use the water-powered jet pack to fly from Newport Beach to Catalina Island on Saturday.

A Catalina crossing like no other...On Sept. 29, Dean O'Malley blasted into the air to set a world record for the longest flight on a jetpack. He and his crew started the 26.2-mile voyage from Newport Beach to Catalina Island around 7 a.m and landed about four hours later.

He's the president of Jetlev Southwest, the company that sells these water-powered jet packs.

KPCC chatted with O’Malley about his feat...

The challenges

O'Malley and his team set out to depart Newport Beach for the planned two hour trip at sunrise on Saturday because the winds and water are much calmer at that time.

“[But] it ended up taking us over four hours and approximately 2.5 tanks [of gas],” he explained, “and that was primarily due to the wind conditions and the waves.”

Reaching Catalina’s shores

About seven miles out before reaching Catalina Island’s shore, O’Malley’s jetpack ran out of fuel for the second time.

“I was getting worn down by the whole trip but I felt like I was at the home stretch at that time so we put in the last two cans of gas, “said O’Malley. But it still took him about an hour-and-a-half for that last stretch.

When he finally got the okay to land on the beach, his jetpack ran out of fuel again about 15-feet in the air. “So I was hoping to be able to come in and land right on the sand, but I did drop a few feet into the water, waist deep,” O’Malley said. “So I walked in from that spot to the beach for the final interviews [with the media.]”

Preparation for the flight

In order to get ready for the flight, O’Malley spent month in the gym working on his upper body, particularly his shoulder, and mixing in cardio work outs.

“I’m still feeling the effects of the flight today, a couple days later,” he admitted. “It’s ironic that a 26.2-mile trip, which is essentially the length as a marathon, I would say it’s much easier to fly a marathon than to run a marathon, but at the same time there are some muscle groups that are fatigued more than others.”

Is this jetpack just for fun, or is it actually useful?

“It’s definitely fun… but it can be useful," O’Malley said.

O’Malley said the main purpose he took on the challenge was to prove that the jetpack could be used for transportation.

“We’ve always made the joke that someone living in New Jersey could strap this on and go to work in Manhattan, “ he said. “You’d be avoiding the traffic, and you’d certainly make a grand entrance every day at your office job.”

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