French inventor flies over English Channel on hoverboard

French inventor Franky Zapata just flew over the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard. It was Zapata’s second such attempt, having failed in July.

Zapata, who made headlines after flying over a military parade in Paris on 14 July, took off from Sangatte, France and landed in St. Margaret’s Bay 22 minutes later. Flying 15-20 meters above the water, he reached speeds of up to 177 km/h.

It was not a direct flight, however. Zapata’s hoverboard can stay airborne for roughly 10 minutes, at which he has to land and refuel. Still, the successful flight was a dream come true.

“I’m feeling happy … it’s just an amazing moment in my life,” he said. ““The last 10% [of the flight] was easier … because I had the time to look at the cliffs.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Zapata explained some of the difficulties he faced.

“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, adding, “Your body resists the wind, and because the board is attached to my feet, all my body has to resist to the wind. I tried to enjoy it and not think about the pain.”

Zapata’s first attempt to cross the Channel failed, he said, because strong waves had pushed his landing platform slightly out of place. When he tried to land to refuel he crashed into the sea.

His hoverboard sustained damage in the accident, and his assistants worked 15-16 hours a day to repair it for the next attempt.

For Zapata, the flight was the culmination of years of hard work.

“We made a machine three years ago, and now we’ve crossed the Channel. It’s crazy,” he said.

The Verge reports that military companies have expressed interest in Zapata’s machine. His company, Zapata Industries, was nearly purchased by military contractor Implant Sciences, while France’s defense and procurement agency provided Zapata with a €1.3 million grant in 2018.