A daredevil inventor from Marseille failed in his attempt to fly across the Channel from France to Britain standing on a jet-powered “flyboard”, having to be rescued after falling into the sea, his team said.
Franky Zapata, 40, a former jet-skiing champion, took off successfully from Sangatte in northern France on Thursday but then half way over the Channel he fell into the water during a tricky mid-sea refuelling stop, a member of his team said.
In a scene resembling a science fiction film, Zapata climbed up a platform in Sangatte, stepped onto his flyboard and then zoomed into the sky to begin his attempt.
He travelled 18 km without incident, but the refuelling plan failed.
He hoped to make the 35-kilometre crossing in 20 minutes, keeping an average speed of 140 kilometres an hour at a height of 15-20 metres above the water.
His plan hit problems initially as the French maritime authorities refused to give the project their blessing – while stopping short of an outright ban – due to busy shipping traffic in the Channel.
But the maritime authorities said they lifted their “unfavourable opinion” after receiving guarantees from Zapata about his refuelling plans and safety.
“We created a new way of flying. We don’t use wings. You are like a bird, it is your body that is flying. It is a boyhood dream,” he told reporters ahead of the flight.
“We want to follow a little bit in the footsteps of the pioneers of aviation,” he added.