Dean O’Malley of Newport Beach, Calif., is a daredevil with a chiseled jaw and a futuristic contraption that makes him levitate, who established a new world record: the longest jet pack flight over open water.
O’Malley last month successfully flew over a 26-mile-long stretch of the Pacific Ocean, from Newport Beach to Catalina Island off the coast of California, while wearing a JetLev, a jet pack that looks like a modified life jacket with two fire extinguisher hoses strapped to his back.
No one had ever attempted this before. This activity is new and O’Malley is working to have Guinness certify his flight has a world record.
“It’s a personal flight,” O’Malley said. “It’s every man’s dream. It’s every person’s dream. It truly is like being a super hero. You are flying through the air like Superman or Ironman and you go underwater.”
A JetLev, which is commercially available, costs $100,000 and was even featured in this year’s Neiman Marcus fantasy gifts catalogue. Working like a vacuum, the JetLev sucks in about 1,000 gallons of water a minute and forces it back out through its two exhaust pipes, propelling its pilot up to 30 feet in the air and at max speed around 35 miles per hour. It’s no surprise that its inventor, Raymond Li, was a James Bond fan.
“He saw ‘James Bond’ and ‘Thunderball’ and the jet pack and was intrigued,” O’Malley said. “The big leap he took was thinking that you actually could use water pressure, rather than hydrogen, nitrogen, in these self-contained packs.”
O’Malley was a banker who just learned to fly the JetLev about a year ago and said anyone can do it. In fact, there are JetLev rentals in Newport Beach, where instructors rent out the contraption and teach people how to fly across the water.
But taking a ride over open water is a difficult task. Waves can easily interrupt the water supply to the pod that pumps in the water from the ocean to propel the pack.
O’Malley’s roughly four-hour ride over the Pacific left his arms numb and his whole body aching. He made it to Catalina Island, but only just. The surf stole some of his propel power towards the end, but he successfully completed his trip and is now the world’s newest record holder.
“It’s a matter of can it be done,” he said,” [And] it feels good. It feels good to be on dry land again.”