‘Flying Man’ crosses English Channel on jet-powered hoverboard
Margaret’s Bay (UK), August 4
A French daredevil who spent years developing a jet-powered hoverboard zoomed across the English Channel on Sunday, fulfilling his quest after pulling off a tricky refuelling manoeuvre that cut short his first attempt 10 days ago.
Franky Zapata blasted off on his “Flyboard” from Sangatte on the northern coast of France at 8:17 am (0617 GMT) for the 35-km trip to St. Margaret’s Bay in Dover.
Escorted by three copters, he glided across the water in the early morning light and landed 22 minutes later in the picturesque bay, to the applause of dozens of onlookers.
“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling happy, I’m feeling lucky. This is just an amazing moment for me,” Zapata told AFP after landing.
He said the indicators in the visor of his helmet showed he raced over the busy shipping lane at a speed of 160-170 km/h, doing zig-zags as he neared the coast to try to ease the fatigue in his legs.
“It’s an isometric exercise for the thighs, so it burns-it’s quite hard. But you recover quickly, it’s not like riding a bicycle,” he said.
Minutes after descending from the metal platform where he landed his craft, Zapata had broken down in tears of emotion while talking on the phone to his son, who could be heard saying, “Dad, you’re the best!”
Zapata, a 40-year-old former jet-ski champion, made his first attempt on July 25, to coincide with the 110th anniversary of Louis Bleriot’s historic first crossing of the Channel by plane.
But the bid was cut short when he tumbled into the water after failing to land on a boat to refuel-his backpack carries some 35 kg of kerosene, enough to keep him aloft for around 10 minutes.
Asked if he considered himself Bleriot’s successor, Zapata said: “It’s not really comparable, he was one of the first men to fly.” “Let’s just say that I achieved my dream.” This time the refuelling boat was bigger and had a larger landing area, and French navy vessels in the area kept an eye out in case of trouble.
Zapata has been developing his hoverboard for the past three years, despite losing two fingers during its maiden flight in his garage near Marseille, when they got sucked into the turbines.
He already holds the Guinness World Record for the farthest hoverboard flight, a 2.2-km trip over the Medi terranean Sea in April 2016.
No Guinness adjudicator was on hand for the latest Channel attempt, though a spokeswoman said he could still be awarded a new record if the trip meets its guidelines.
Zapata is also working on a flying car that would be easy enough for anyone to pilot. “Everyone wants to fly... We want to give everybody the ability to go flying whenever they want,” he said. — AFP
Zooming into limelight
- Zapata burst into the spotlight at this year’s July 14 Bastille Day military parade in Paris, where he and his craft buzzed above a crowd of stunned onlookers that included French President Emmanuel Macron
- His device has also captured the attention of the French defence ministry, which in December gave Zapata’s company, Z-AIR, a 1.3 million euro ($1.4 million) development grant, in particular for improving the turbines
- Zapata, a 40-year-old former jet-ski champion, made his first attempt on July 25, but his bid was cut short