SANGATTE (France)/ST MARGA-RET’S BAY (Britain) • French inventor Franky Zapata yesterday succeeded in crossing the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard he designed, zooming over the Strait of Dover in just over 20 minutes.
After a previous bid last month that ended with him falling into the sea, Mr Zapata took off from Sangatte, just outside Calais in France, early yesterday morning on a little platform powered by five small jet engines and carrying kerosene in a backpack.
Flanked by three helicopters, he reached Britain after a stop on a boat halfway through the 35km crossing to refuel, waving to onlookers before landing safely in St Margaret’s Bay, close to Dover on Britain’s southern coast.
“For the last five to six kilometres, I just really enjoyed it. Whether this is a historic event or not, I’m not the one to decide. Time will tell,” he said on arrival.
“We made a machine three years ago… and now we’ve crossed the Channel, it’s crazy,” he said, before breaking into tears.
Mr Zapata, who wowed crowds during France’s Bastille Day celebrations on July 14 by soaring over a military parade in Paris on the device, said the hoverboard had reached speeds of 160kmh to 170kmh during the crossing.
He received a €1.3 million (S$1.98 million) grant from the French army last year to help finance the development of the hoverboard.
His biggest challenge was refuelling with another backpack, which required landing on a platform mounted on a boat.
On his first attempt, he was knocked off balance and fell; this time, he used a bigger boat and platform.
He said it was not yet clear what the hoverboard might be used for, as it was a complex craft that the average person was unlikely to be able to navigate.
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