The Dominion Post
Hoverboard hero soars across the Channel
His hero is Louis Bleriot, the acclaimed inventor who made the first aeroplane flight across the Channel 110 years ago.
Now Franky Zapata, a fellow Frenchman, may be hoping his tea-tray sized hoverboard will become as ubiquitous as the aircraft, after he completed a 22-minute journey by jetpack from Sangatte to St Margaret’s Bay, Kent.
It was no easy feat. Zapata, known as the ‘‘flying Frenchman’’, fell into the sea at his first attempt and lost two fingers developing the technology.
He was escorted on his journey by three helicopters as he glided above the world’s busiest shipping lane.
Dozens of spectators applauded as he landed. Moments later, an emotional Zapata broke into tears as he spoke on the phone to his nine-year-old son Matt, who could be heard telling him: ‘‘Dad, you’re the best.’’
‘‘Everybody has dreamed of Marty McFly’s hoverboard,’’ Zapata said, referring to the character played by Michael J Fox in the Back To The Future films. ‘‘We’ve done it.’’
His team worked around the clock to repair the ‘‘Flyboard’’ after it was damaged when he crashed as he tried to refuel halfway across the Channel during his first attempt 10 days ago, which was timed to coincide with the 110th anniversary of Bleriot’s historic crossing.
The device is powered by five turbojets and his backpack only carries enough kerosene to stay airborne for 10 minutes, so he had stop briefly on a boatmounted platform to swap it.
‘‘I almost messed up the landing on the platform again,’’ said Zapata, 40, a former jet ski champion. ‘‘It was the hardest part.’’