A French inventor’s daring attempt to cross the Channel on his jet-powered hoverboard ended in a disappointing splash when he fell into the water while trying to refuel half way across.
Franky Zapata, 40, lost his balance when he attempted to land on a platform on a boat to change his backpack, which contained 42 litres of kerosene when he took off from a beach in Sangatte, near the northern French port of Calais. He had flown for 11 miles at speeds of up to 87 mph, 50 feet above the waves.
Divers from the refuelling boat pulled him out of the water unhurt with his ‘Flyboard’, which he designed and built himself.
Stéphane Denis, a member of Mr Zapata’s support team, said: “It is a huge disappointment. He made his rendez-vous with the refuelling boat, but the landing platform touched his ‘Flyboard’. That threw him off balance and he fell into the water.” Mr Denis added that he would make another attempt, probably within weeks.
It took him 10 minutes to reach the boat and if he had managed to strap on a new fuel pack and lift off again, he would have expected to reach St Margaret’s Bay, near Dover, in another 10 minutes. It would have been the first Channel crossing on a hoverboard.
Mr Zapata, a former jet-ski champion from Marseille, was reportedly furious at the failure. He blamed French maritime authorities who had refused to allow him to refuel in mid-air. He had wanted to refuel twice, once over French waters and another over UK waters.
British authorities did not oppose the plan, but the French deemed it too dangerous. French commentators said the French refused because they were more concerned about safety, while the “Anglo-Saxons” were more relaxed, provided other people were not put at risk.
Mr Zapata, nicknamed “Flyman” by French media, had planned the attempt to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first cross-Channel flight by Louis Blériot, the French aviation pioneer.
During an early test flight when he was developing the turbo-powered ‘Flyboard’, two of his fingers were torn off after he collided with a wall and caught his hand in the turbines.
He delighted French leaders by soaring over their heads at the Bastille Day military parade in Paris. Emmanuel Macron, the president, compared him to James Bond. Footage of the stunt was broadcast around the world.