Franky Zapata, former jetski champion and French military reservist, who impressed France with a demonstration of his flyboard at this year’s Bastille Day parade, has said he will make the crossing on Thursday to mark the 110th anniversary of Louis Blériot’s first cross-Channel airplane flight.
“I used 3% of the machine’s capabilities and I’ll need 99% for the Channel. It won’t be easy at all and I reckon I’ve a 30% chance of succeeding,” he said.
Zapata, 40, expects to cross from Sangatte near Calais to St Margaret’s Bay near Dover in 20 minutes, refuelling halfway and reaching speeds of up to 86.9mph (140km/h).
He added that the take-off time would depend on weather conditions and he had not yet decided whether to refuel the kerosene-powered flyboard by landing on a ship or hovering over it, the latter being more risky but which would enable him to claim a true “cross-Channel flight”.
At France’s Bastille Day parade on 14 July, the president, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and other European leaders watched as Zapata flew above the Champs-Elysées brandishing a rifle.
Florence Parly, the French armed forces minister, said the flyboard could be “tested for different kinds of uses, for example as a flying logistical platform or, indeed, as an assault platform”.
Zapata was awarded a €1.3m grant for his Flyboard Air from the French government defence and procurement agency) last December. It is powered by five mini turbo engines and can run autonomously for about 10 minutes and reach speeds of up to 118mph (190km/h).