Flyboard Inventor Fails to Cross the English Channel, Falls Into Water

Daredevil inventor Franky Zapata failed to cross the English Channel today on his flyboard after taking off from Sangatte, France. Zapata traveled only halfway across the 22-mile waterway before he ran into trouble at his refueling point and went tumbling into the water. He was wearing a lifejacket and reportedly didn’t suffer any major injuries.

Zapata was supposed to refuel at the 11-mile mark on a small platform that required perfect precision to land on safely. Unfortunately, the platform shifted underneath Zapata due to the waves of the Channel and he tumbled into the water, according to the Guardian.

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The 40-year-old inventor uses a flying platform that he designed himself and he most recently gained worldwide attention for demonstrating the device at France’s Bastille Day parade on July 14. French President Emmanuel Macron seemed very impressed. But his choice of carrying a long gun during the demonstration definitely raised some eyebrows.

The Guardian captured video of the takeoff from Northern France, though it does not show Zapata crashing into the water.

Zapata was reportedly angry about the plan to refuel over the English Channel, which was required by French authorities for safety reasons. British authorities reportedly didn’t give a shit either way as long as the public wasn’t in any danger. Zapata would have preferred to refuel in midair, as the Guardian reported.

The amount of fuel needed for personal aviation devices has, historically, been a major impediment to their success. Jetpacks have a long history and were successfully developed in the 1960s. But the biggest hurdle has always been the amount of fuel required to travel for more than a short distance. In the 1960s, rocketbelts and jetpacks could only stay in the air for about 30 seconds.

These days, inventors like Zapata have obviously made improvements on the 30-second airtime, but fuel and general safety are still a problem.

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People watch as Franky Zapata, a 40-year-old inventor, takes to the air in Sangatte, Northern France, at the start of his attempt to cross the channel from France to England Thursday July 25, 2019
Photo: AP

The decision to attempt to cross the Channel today was no accident. It’s the 110th anniversary of Louis Blériot’s successful flight across the English Channel. Blériot made the first powered flight across in 1909.

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Better luck next time, Mr. Zapata. We’re still rooting for you.

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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog