French inventor attempts flyboard Channel crossing

French inventor Franky Zapata lands on a FlyboardImage copyright Reuters
Image caption French inventor Franky Zapata lands on a flyboard

A French inventor is attempting to cross the English Channel on a jet-powered flyboard.

Franky Zapata, a former jet-ski champion, is hoping to cross from northern France to southern England in just 20 minutes.

The 40-year-old took off from near Calais and will refuel halfway across the Channel by landing on a vessel.

He is aiming to keep an average speed of 87mph (140 km/h) while travelling 15-20 metres (50-65ft) above the water.

The challenge is taking place today because it marks exactly 110 years since Louis Blériot made the first plane flight across the Channel in 1909.

Mr Zapata set off from the beach at Sangatte, which is near Calais, at around 9:00 local time (7:00 GMT) on Thursday. The exact timing was dependant on the weather conditions and shipping traffic.

If successful, he plans to land the flyboard in Dover, which is around 22 miles (35km) away.

“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.

But he warned that the wind “could make the crossing more complex”.

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Media captionInventor Franky Zapata gets the parade off to a flying start

Mr Zapata received widespread attention following the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris earlier this month, when he took part in a military display on his futuristic flyboard.

The invention, which is about the size of a skateboard, is powered by five small jet engines and fuelled by kerosene which is kept in the rider’s backpack.

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