Newport to Catalina — by jetpack

Jetlev Southwest President Dean O'Malley is making (and skimming) waves again as he prepares for a 26.2-mile flight to Catalina — by jetpack.

The Newport Beach resident will blast off from the M Street pier at 7 a.m. Saturday in an attempt to set a world record for longest jetpack flight.

No previous such record exists, said Eric Longabardi, a media consultant for Jetlev and a freelance reporter who contributes to the Newport Beach Independent.

The flight to Avalon is also timed to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of aviator Glenn L. Martin's historic flight from Newport to Catalina Island.

The flight is expected to take a couple hours, depending on weather conditions. The Jetlev operates by sucking up water through a 33-foot hose to a carbon fiber pack. The water is then shot out of nozzles on the pack at high power, which lifts fliers off the water.

"This has been in the works for close to a year," O'Malley said Thursday. "I'm hoping it's going to be a smooth crossing."

O'Malley said he'll stay "as low to the water as possible" to achieve maximum speed. Ideally, that will mean hovering two to five feet above the water.

"When you're going low and fast, it's more of an adrenaline rush," he said.

Plus, he added, getting there faster could mean he won't have to stop mid-water to refuel.

"People are always asking about sharks," he said. "[Refueling] is the one point I'm concerned about sharks."

Jetlev made a splash last December when the company had employees dress up as Santa and fly the jetpacks.

Jetlev sells membership packages that include up to 40 minutes of flight time per month. Customers can also buy their own jetpack for about $100,000.

"The sensation of flying the Jetlev is hard to describe," O'Malley said. "It's just surreal hovering over the water."


Twitter: @jillcowan

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