Franky Zapata, France’s ‘flying soldier,’ to attempt English Channel crossing Thursday

(CNN) — Ferry passengers traveling between England and France should keep their eyes peeled for an unusual sight on Thursday as French inventor Franky Zapata attempts to cross the English Channel on his jet-powered hoverboard.

The former jet ski racing champion will take to the skies on his Flyboard Air vehicle on July 25, according to Krysten Zapata, his wife and media spokeswoman, in an attempt that will mark the 110th anniversary of the first aerial crossing of the Channel.

Crossing the Channel would require Zapata to refuel several times, and if he succeeds he will smash his record for the longest Flyboard Air flight.

The crossing will be far more difficult than his now-famous appearance at the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris on July 14, according to Zapata.

While the Bastille Day flight only used “3% of the machine’s capacity,” a successful crossing of the Channel will take “99.9%,” he said.

Zapata said he believes he has a “30% chance” of making it across, and admitted to feeling greater pressure now that there is a lot more interest in his exploits.

Zapata demonstrated the Flyboard Air during Bastille Day celebrations on July 14.

Zapata demonstrated the Flyboard Air during Bastille Day celebrations on July 14.


Zapata came to the world’s attention after flying over Paris on Bastille Day.

Crowds cheered as he circled above the Champs-Elysees on the Flyboard Air during a military parade attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and political representatives from other European countries.

“When you fly with your body, even your hands affect the direction you want to go in. You feel the turbulence and the air through your fingers,” Zapata told CNN.

“It’s like becoming a bird. But it’s also very hard. I have to fight against the wind with my legs so there’s pain too. It’s not as peaceful as it looks.”

Three years in the making, the Flyboard Air can reach an altitude of nearly 500 feet — with the potential to go much higher — and a speed of 87 miles per hour.

Zapata has worked with the US and French militaries, with the French investing $1.4 million to pay for tests of the board.

French special forces are interested in the flying board for several uses, including as a possible assault device, said Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV.

Zapata told CNN that regulations need to be worked out and safety issues looked at before the technology can be put to wider, recreational use.

CNN’s Antoine Crouin and Saskya Vandoorne contributed to this report.

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