76°F
weather icon Clear

Air-board inventor makes it more than halfway across Channel

SANGATTE, France — Looking like a superhero, the French inventor of an airborne hoverboard glided partway over the English Channel on his personal flying machine then crashed in the sea Thursday.

Unharmed and undeterred, 40-year-old Franky Zapata said he plans to try again. Perhaps within days.

The inventor collided with a refueling boat several minutes into his flight, destroying his transportation, a version of the Flyboard his company sells commercially.

After being rescued from the Channel’s choppy waters, Zapata smiled and said, “We won’t give up until we succeed.”

Zapata took off to cross the Channel from the French coastal town of Sangatte. From afar, it looked like he was skateboarding on the sky.

He hoped to travel 36 kilometers (22.4 miles) to the Dover area in southeast England. Propelled by a power pack full of kerosene, he planned to refuel from a boat partway across.

“I felt really great. It’s just fantastic,” Zapata told reporters later of the experience. “I was flying. It was like a dream.”

Reaching speeds up to 177 kilometers per hour (110 mph), he traveled some 20 kilometers (12 miles), more than halfway to the English shore. That’s farther than he had ever traveled on his air-board.

But as he descended for a refueling stop on a boat, the platform he was meant to land on was moving too much from waves. He wasn’t able to grab onto it, and he plunged into the sea.

Zapata winced as he described the “disaster.” He said his helmet filled with water and he struggled for breath. But he came away from the rescue by French divers with just a scratch on his arm.

“It’s hard to swallow,” he acknowledged. But as a former jet ski champion, Zapata said he knows how to “learn from your mistakes.”

He plans to go back to his workshop as soon as Friday to build a new board and prepare a new trip, possibly within days.

Zapata wowed crowds in Paris on Bastille Day, whirling over European leaders on his flying hoverboard. But crossing the windy, ship-filled Channel was a much bigger challenge.

He scheduled Thursday’s flight to coincide with the 110th anniversary of the first flight across the Channel, by French aviator Louis Bleriot on July 25, 1909 — who also left from Sangatte. The beach where Zapata took off Thursday bears Bleriot’s name.

Noting that Bleriot also had several failed flying attempts, Zapata said, “Aviation is made by people who suffer failures, and advance by rising again.”

Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Nestor makes landfall on Florida island, heads north

The storm made landfall on St. Vincent Island, a nature preserve just off Florida’s northern Gulf Coast in a lightly populated area of the state.

Earthquakes felt in Las Vegas strained major fault, study says

The earthquakes that hammered the Southern California desert near the town of Ridgecrest last summer involved ruptures on a web of interconnected faults and increased strain on a major nearby fault that has begun to slowly move, according to a new study.

Europe now willing to take IS prisoners in Syria, Trump says

Claiming new progress against Islamic State extremists in Syria, President Donald Trump said Friday that some European nations are now willing to take responsibility for detained IS fighters who are from their countries.

Plans delayed to explode 2 unstable cranes in New Orleans

Plans have been pushed back a day to bring down two giant, unstable construction cranes in a series of controlled explosions before they can topple onto historic New Orleans buildings, the city’s fire chief said Friday.

Mexican president defends retreat in face of cartel gunmen killing 8

Mexican security forces backed off an attempt to capture a son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman after finding themselves outgunned in a ferocious shootout with cartel enforcers that left at least eight people dead and more than 20 wounded, authorities said Friday.

White House admission on link of Ukraine aid, Biden probe brings fallout

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s initial remarks, made during a rare appearance by an administration official in the White House briefing room, spun open a new phase of the impeachment inquiry.