France’s Flyboard Hero Franky Zapata Failed in His Attempt to Cross English Channel

By Reuters

SANGATTE, France—A French inventor failed in his attempt on Thursday to cross the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard when he missed a refueling platform mounted on a boat, a member of his technical team said.

Franky Zapata was making his attempt on the 110th anniversary of the first powered flight between Britain and France.


“It is a huge disappointment. He made his rendezvous with the refueling boat but he must have missed the platform by just a few centimeters,” a member of his team said on BFM television.

Zapata was unharmed, he added.

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French inventor Franky Zapata talks to his wife as he gets ready for take off on a Flyboard to cross the English channel from Sangatte to Dover, in Sangatte, France on July 25, 2019. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

“We practiced this maneuver dozens of times in heavier seas, with platforms that moved more, without any problems,” the technician said.

“It wasn’t the wind, it was the waves”. The platform was two meters above the deck, every movement of the boat is exaggerated.”

Zapata said he believed he had a “30% chance” of making it across, and admitted to feeling greater pressure now that there is a lot more interest in his exploits.

Standing on the hoverboard powered by five small jet engines, Zapata took off from Sangatte, France at 07:06 a.m. (local time) and had hoped to reach to Dover in about 20 minutes, flying at up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) per hour at an altitude of between 15 to 20 meters.

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French inventor Franky Zapata takes off on a Flyboard to cross the English channel from Sangatte to Dover, in Sangatte, France on July 25, 2019. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

He disappeared from spectators’ view within moments, trailed by a helicopter. Minutes later his team announced he had failed to land on the ship to take on more fuel.

Zapata captured the world’s imagination during France’s July 14 Bastille Day celebrations, flying over a military parade in Paris’ Place de la Concorde in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

French President Macron tweeted a video of Zapata’s exploits.

Zapata, a champion on jetski-powered waterboards, steers his craft by leaning forward or backward and controls thrust with a throttle connected to his 1500 horsepower board.

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French inventor Franky Zapata poses with a a Flyboard during a news conference as he prepares to cross the English channel from Sangatte in France to Dover, at the Saint-Inglevert aerodrome near Calais, France on July 24, 2019. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

“When you fly with your body, even your hands affect the direction you want to go in. You feel the turbulence and the air through your fingers,” Zapata told CNN.

“It’s like becoming a bird. But it’s also very hard. I have to fight against the wind with my legs so there’s pain too. It’s not as peaceful as it looks.”

By Emilie Delwarde

The CNN Wire contributed to this report.