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Cars and Transportation

French inventor fails to cross English Channel

July 25, 2019

The Frenchman apparently "missed" a refueling stop halfway into his attempt and fell into the water. He had planned to make the trip in less than half an hour by traveling at a speed of 140 kilometers per hour.

Frankreich | Franky Zapata | Flyboard
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Spingler

French inventor Franky Zapata on Thursday plunged into seawater while making the bold attempt to cross the English Channel on his Flyboard Air, a jet-powered hovering device he created.

Zapata was expected to make the roughly 35-kilometer (21.5-mile) crossing from Sangatte, France to Dover, England in less than half an hour by traveling at a speed of 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour).

However, while attempting to make a midway refueling stop, his hoverboard appeared to have hit part of a boat-mounted landing platform, effectively knocking him over into the water, a Zapata team member told French media.

"It is a huge disappointment," a member of his team told French TV channel BFM. "He made his rendez-vous with the refueling boat but he must have missed the platform by just a few centimeters."

Zapata was successfully rescued and did not sustain injuries, according to initial reports.

Read more: Electric scooters' rollout off to a bumpy start in Germany

Franky Zapata hovers over a crowd in northwestern France
Despite concerns from French authorities, he managed to take-off and complete the first leg of the trip without any issuesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Spingler

'New way of flying'

The aviation enthusiast had chosen Thursday for his attempt as it marked 110 years since French pilot Louis Bleriot made the first flight across the English Channel in 1909.

Ahead of the English Channel attempt, he said wind strength "could make the crossing more complex."

"We created a new way of flying," Zapata told reporters. "We don't use wings. You are like a bird; it is your body that is flying. It is a boyhood dream."

Zapata made waves when he hovered over Paris' Place de la Concorde earlier this month as part of France's Bastille Day military parade.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the defense ministry is looking at ways to integrate Zapata's invention into the country's armed forces.

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Frank Zapata hovers over Place de la Concorde during a French military parade
Franky Zapata became a worldwide sensation when he hovered over central Paris carrying a rifle during a military paradeImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Jocard

ls/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)