Water-Powered Jet Packs in Hawaii Kai

The Future Has Landed: Water-powered jet packs let you fly above the sea.

A Jetlev test pilot blasts off near Hawaii Kai.

photos: courtesy eric hans schaefer and waterball entertainment

Jet packs have finally arrived, and they’ve come in the form of a high-powered water toy.

The water-propelled Jetlev-Flyer allows you to blast through the air or hover in space like some sort of aquatic action hero. You can’t use one to commute to work or cross the Molokai Channel (at least not yet),  but for a $199 kamaaina rate you can get a half-hour of supervised flight time.

“You feel like Buzz Lightyear,” says Jeff Krantz,  owner of Sea Breeze Watersports in Hawaii Kai, which has partnered with Jetlev’s distributor to put two of the pricey jetpacks—they run $100,000 apiece—in the waters of Maunalua Bay. He plans to make Jetlev rides available to the public this month.

A 250-horsepower marine engine housed in a boat-shaped pod provides the Jetlev power, pumping seawater to the jetpack through what looks like a fire hose. The Jetlev can fly up to 30 miles per hour, with a maximum altitude of 30 feet, the length of the hose.

Skilled pilots can do back flips. They can land on moving jet skis. They can dive under water then re-emerge like leaping dolphins. During a recent test flight in front of the Sea Breeze dock, Jetlev pilot Ryan McDonnell climbed, dove, swooped, pretended to walk on water, and hovered beside the Keahole Street bridge to shake hands with the wide-eyed spectators gathered there.

“The hardest thing to master is precision flying,” says McDonnell, “but anyone can get up out of the water.”

New water toys mean new ways to get hurt, and its not hard to imagine a Jetlev tangled in the branches of a nearshore tree or in the rigging of a sailboat. As a safety precaution, Sea Breeze flight instructors will have a remote throttle control to reduce Jetlev’s power and keep novices out of trouble. Krantz says the whole operation will be kept far enough from shore to rule out crashes on dry land, both for the Jetlevers and for the motorists along Kalanianaole Highway who might otherwise be distracted. jetlevhawaiianislands.com.


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