Former jetski champion and Frenchman, Franky Zapata attempted and failed to cross the English Channel via hoverboard Thursday.
The 40-year-old military reservist had to refuel the jet-powered flyboard halfway across the channel. As he was trying to refuel the flyboard, Zapata fell into the water.
“It is a huge disappointment,” a member of his team told a French television station, per the BBC. “He must have missed the platform by just a few centimeters.”
Zapata was not injured after the fall.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Zapata Showed off His Jet-Powered Flyboard Earlier This Year
The French inventor showed off his hoverboard earlier this year at Bastille day celebrations in Paris. He started to garner worldwide attention after this.
Zapata who has become known as the “French Green Goblin,” and the “flying soldier” showed his device off in front of world leaders such as France’s president, Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel.
The former jetski champion called the opportunity to fly across the English Channel a dream.
“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,” Zapata told reporters ahead of the flight.
2. Zapata Was Forced to Refuel Only Once, Instead of the Two Refuels He Planned
Heading into his takeoff, Zapata was hit with a new set of difficulties. Although his flight had been approved by civil aviation authorities it was not approved by maritime officials.
Maritime officials insisted that Zapata not station a ship to refuel the flyboard. They said it would pose a risk to shipping in the busy Channel, according to The Guardian.
“We have advised against the crossing because it is extremely dangerous given the traffic in the Channel, one of the busiest (shipping) straits in the world,” the French maritime authority said.
Prior to the flight, Zapata told The Guardian that this decision my the maritime authority was going to make his flight 10-times harder.
“This has made the challenge 10 times more difficult,” Zapata said. “It’s a completely arbitrary and unreasonable decision.”
Of course, Zapata failed after trying to refuel the machine about halfway through. It is unclear if he would have had an easier time succeeding if he had multiple areas to refuel.
3. Zapata Received a Grant of about $1.4 Million from the French Government for His Invention
Zapata who invented his flyboard and brands it with his name received a grant of about $1.4 million or €1.3 million from the French government.
CNN reports that the French hope Zapata’s invention can give their military a technological advantage.
The machine is powered by five mini turbo engines and, and according to The Guardian, can run autonomously for about 10 minutes and reach speeds of up to 118mph.
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 showed the possible innovations his flyboard could have during Bastille day celebrations as he embraced his Green Goblin moniker by brandishing a rifle as he flew around the city.
4. Zapata’s Flyboard Can Reach the Height of 500 Feet
According to CNN, Zapata’s invention can reach a height of about 500 feet, with the potential to go much higher.
Zapata began his career in “flyboarding” when he transferred his jetski talents over to the hydro-fly world – a water-powered hoverboard.
“When you fly with your body and then you see your hand affect the direction you want to, and you feel the air through your finger before the wind affects your body, it’s like becoming like birds,” Zapata told CNN describing the thrills of taking off on a flyboard.
The key to Zapata’s flight controls stems from placing turbine engines over standard electric propellers.
5. Zapata’s Journey across the English Channel Was from Calais, France to St Margaret’s Bay in Dover, UK
Zapata was trying to break his own record of distance traveled on a flyboard, per CNN. In 2016, he broke the world record by traveling more than 2,200 meters on his hoverboard in southern France.
The attempt across the English Channel was hoping to emphasize the importance dream of flight, as Zapata’s trip marked the 110th anniversary of the first flight across the Channel.
Zapata emphasized the enjoyment of this dream prior to taking off.
“The one I enjoyed the most is when I’m alone flying around the desert and around the mountain. Tha’s why I do the mission,” Zapata told CNN.
Zapata may have failed, but keep an eye out for the “French Green Goblin” as he is bound to capture the hearts and wonder of the world next time he takes to the sky.