Inventor tries, and fails, to cross Channel on flyboard

Published July 25, 2019, 4:56 PM

by CJ Juntereal

By the Associated Press

A French aviation buff and inventor failed Thursday in his attempt to cross the English Channel on a homemade “flyboard.”

Franky Zapata, "Le Rocketman", a 40-year-old inventor, performs a training flight over the Saint Inglevert airport near Calais, Northern France, Wednesday July 24, 2019. Zapata, the man who wowed the crowd on Bastille Day, whirling over France’s invited leaders on his flyboard, is making final checks for his biggest challenge: soaring across the English Channel. Zapata is to take off on Thursday anchored to his flyboard _ a small flying platform he invented _ from Sangatte, in France’s Pas de Calais region, and hopes to land in the Dover area. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler/MANILA BULLETIN)
Franky Zapata, “Le Rocketman”, a 40-year-old inventor, performs a training flight over the Saint Inglevert airport near Calais, Northern France, Wednesday, July 24, 2019.  (AP Photo/Michel Spingler/MANILA BULLETIN)

After careful preparations, Franky Zapata took off from the French coastal town of Sangatte fastened to the small flying platform he designed. From afar, it looked like he was skateboarding on the sky.

But as he descended for a refueling stop about halfway through, he encountered a “problem,” said spokeswoman Anna Venekas.

She told The Associated Press that “the flight is canceled” and that Zapata “is doing fine.”

She would not give further details.

CNews television cited people close to Zapata as saying his journey was cut short when he hit the refueling boat and fell in the water.

He hoped to make it across 36 kilometers (22.4 miles) to the Dover area in southeast England in about 20 minutes. He was carrying a power pack full of kerosene, and was planning to refuel from a boat partway across.

Zapata, 40, wowed crowds in Paris on Bastille Day, whirling over European leaders on the flyboard. But crossing the windy, ship-filled Channel is a much tougher challenge.

He scheduled Thursday’s flight to coincide with the 110th anniversary of the first flight across the Channel, by French aviator Louis Bleriot on July 25, 1909 — who also left from Sangatte after multiple failed attempts. The beach where Zapata took off Thursday bears Bleriot’s name.

 
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