When Newport Beach native Dave Purcell heard that Jetlev Southwest President Dean O’Malley was about to fly Saturday from Newport to Catalina Island on a jetpack, he wasn’t about to miss it.
His friend — Christine Heck, 60, who was at the M Street pier where O’Malley took off at about 7 a.m. — said Purcell, 65, was like a little kid.
“I wanted to see it,” Purcell said with excitement. “No one has ever done it before.”
That is until Saturday. According to online reports, the 36-year-old achieved his goal of setting a world record for longest jetpack flight by reaching Catalina Island about four and a half hours after departing from Newport.
O’Malley’s flight coincided with the 100-year anniversary of aviator Glenn L. Martin’s flight from Newport to Catalina Island. Perhaps O’Malley’s trek wasn’t as historic, but it still left spectators impressed.
One minute, O’Malley was standing with his feet planted on a boat, and the next he was magically lifted in the air with water gushing from the jetpack’s sides, which is how the device operates.
“It’s like Superman,” one man shouted as O’Malley started flying. “We got Superman out.”
Before making the 26.2-mile trip to Catalina, O’Malley flew ashore to speak with the handful of reporters, photographers and news cameras documenting his every move.
He too had a camera attached to his jetpack to record his journey to Avalon.
O’Malley said he decided to do this to set a world record, “to prove that it can be done.”
O’Malley spent months practicing for his journey to Avalon and treated it as if he’s preparing to run a marathon.
“Fortunately, it’s easier to fly than run,” O’Malley said.
Newport Beach resident Todd Brumley, who had seen O’Malley practicing many times in the Harbor, said he read about it and got his wife, Kacey Brumley, up and running in the morning to watch him take off.
“I think it’s exciting,” Brumley said. “You don’t get to see that kind of thing. It’s kind of unusual.”
And now that he’s seen it, Todd Brumley, 54, wants to do it.
“I want to do this,” he said. “I want to try it.”
Asked if she would let him, Brumley’s wife said, “Sure, why not? It’s either that or guitar camp.”