Franky Zapata: Flyboard inventor fails in cross-Channel bid

Media caption,
Franky Zapata took off from near Calais on Thursday morning

A French inventor has failed in his attempt to cross the English Channel on a jet-powered flyboard.

Franky Zapata, a former jet-ski champion, had been hoping to cross from northern France to southern England in just 20 minutes.

But the 40-year-old fell into the water halfway across as he tried to land on a boat to refuel.

He took off from near Calais on Thursday morning and was heading for St Margaret's Bay in Dover.

Mr Zapata was not injured when he fell and later announced he was planning a second bid to fly across the Channel next week.

"It is a huge disappointment," a member of his team told France's BFM TV shortly after the flight. "He must have missed the platform by just a few centimetres."

"We practised this manoeuvre dozens of times in heavier seas," he added.

But the inventor insisted his journey had been far from a failure.

"We proved [to] ourselves that our plan is OK. The problem now is the refuelling, so we have to focus on refuelling and do it again, next week," he told the BBC.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The inventor missed a landing platform halfway across when he attempted to refuel

The attempt took place exactly 110 years since Louis Blériot made the first powered flight across the Channel in 1909.

Mr Zapata set off from the beach at Sangatte, near Calais, at about 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT) on Thursday. The exact timing was dependent on the weather conditions and shipping traffic.

He was aiming to keep an average speed of 87mph (140km/h) while travelling 15-20m (50-65ft) above the water.

Crowds gathered at the beach to watch the attempt. Shortly after setting off, Mr Zapata disappeared from view as a helicopter followed closely behind him.

But just minutes later it was announced that he had failed.

Media caption,
Inventor Franky Zapata gets the Bastille Day parade off to a flying start

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

"Right now, Plan A is to find a really big boat that we can land on it [to refuel], without too much trouble," he told the BBC's Outside Source programme.

He also warned that the wind could make the 22-mile (35km) crossing "more complex".

Mr Zapata received widespread attention following the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris earlier this month, when he took part in a military display on his futuristic flyboard.

The invention, which is about the size of a skateboard, is powered by five small jet engines and fuelled by kerosene which is kept in the rider's backpack.