French 'flyman' falls into sea trying to cross English Channel on hoverboard

Franky Zapata’s flying start came to an abrupt end some 11 miles into his journey across the English Channel when he fell into the water.

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By Daisy Tennant-Thomas and Saphora Smith

DOVER, England — An inventor’s attempt to cross the stretch of water between France and England on a hoverboard ended in failure Thursday after he plunged into the sea.

Franky Zapata’s flying start came to an abrupt end some 11 miles into his journey across the English Channel when he fell into the water after stopping to refuel, according to Stephane Denis who helped organize the attempt.

The former jet ski champion was not injured but will not attempt to cross the Channel again on Thursday, Denis said. He is expected to try it again soon.

Zapata’s bid to cross the approximately 22 mile stretch of water on a hoverboard was meant to coincide with the 110th anniversary of the first-ever flight across the English Channel in an airplane, achieved by Louis Blériot.

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If all went to plan, the journey to the English coast was predicted to take around 20 minutes.

Zapata, 40, who is dubbed "Flyman" by French media, came to prominence after he wowed spectators at Paris’ annual Bastille Day celebrations by flying over the military parade in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But he told Le Parisien newspaper last week that Bastille Day was “easy” in comparison to crossing the English Channel.

“I used 3 percent of the capacity of the machine, while for crossing the Channel I’ll need 99.9 percent,” he said, adding that he believed he had a 30 percent chance of making it across to England.

The hoverboard is powered by five small jet engines and has a 1500 horsepower, according to Reuters. Zapata steers his craft by leaning forward or backward and controls the thrust with a throttle, the news agency added.

At first, French maritime authorities refused to permit the flight saying it was too dangerous to cross because of the number of vessels in the Channel, according to Le Parisien.

The Channel is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Tennant-Thomas reported from Dover, Smith reported from London.

Reuters contributed.