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Frenchman Franky Zapata fired-up to make new Channel flyboard bid soon

Franky Zapata seen flying over the Channel on his first attempt at a crossing, 25 July 2019.
Franky Zapata seen flying over the Channel on his first attempt at a crossing, 25 July 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s 40-year-old French daredevil French inventor Franky Zapata whose plan to cross the English Channel on his own invention known as the Flyboard took a dive. Disappointed, but not cowed, the man from Marseille says he will try again soon.

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Speaking at a press conference on Thursday afternoon, a smiling Zapata assured reporters that despite not completing his channel crossing as planned, he was none the less very proud of his feat,  which has never attempted before.

"It's the longest distance I've ever flown, so for me it's not completely a failure."

He admitted his disappointment and conceded that next time he'll need to organise a bigger boat to land on.

Zapata's goal was to make the 35 km crossing in 20 minutes, flying 70 metres above the water at a maximum speed of 140 km/hour and arrive near Dover in England.

But halfway into the exploit, the well-prepared plan came unstuck.

Franky Zapata Channel attempt, July 25th, 2019

Wearing a dark-coloured suit and helmet, equipped with a back pack containing 47 kilos worth of kerosene, Franky took off on his flyboard from a raised platform at 9.05am local time.

After 17,5 km, a small platform was waiting for him in English waters in order for him to refuel.

However, as he approached the floating platform, he clipped the edge due to the uneven swell and fell into the water.

There was a brief moment of panic, but quickly his team fished him out of the water and he was declared unhurt.

French authorities were reticent about giving Zapata the green light for this project from the get-go due to the busy nature of the shipping in that area.

Officials had apparently refused to allow him to refuel his jet-propelled hoverboard in the air, and so the platform, placed just inside English waters was used instead.

Honor for the community

At the end of the press conference during which Zapata answered questions in French and English about his undertaking, the mayor of Sangatte, Guy Allemand presented the inventor with special award.

He told him it was an honor that such an exciting undertaking took place in his town and that he was welcome anytime.

"Victory is a colective effort" he went on, thanking Zapata's team to a round of applause.

Zapata, a former jet-ski champion, tends to dodge any clear labels of sportsman, businessman or even inventor and prefers to refer to himself as 'a problem solver'.

“I’m especially good at being a survivor."

Fan of Iron Man 

"I have a lucky star, I work hard, I never give up and I always get myself out of sticky situations » he told French newssite 20 Minutes."

The first time he tried the flyboard, he lost two fingers.

At one point, the French authorities had banned him from using it. But he pushed on despite the dangers and challenges.

Zapata attributed much of his inspiration to his love of comic book super heroes and the fact that he had started his own jet ski brand. When business was slow, he took to experimenting with jet ski engine technology.

“One day I realized that using the jet ski propulsion I could rise up over the water. Inspired by my love of super heroes and comics, I tried to recreate something close to Iron Man…I was a fan at the time. So I created the water Flyboard…and once I’d done that, all I had to do was un plug the hose!”

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