French inventor, Franky Zapata, tries, fails to cross English Channel on homemade 'flyboard'

SANGATTE, France -- A French aviation buff and inventor glided partway over the English Channel on a homemade "flyboard" Thursday - then crashed in the sea.

Undeterred, he plans to try again.

After careful preparations, Franky Zapata took off from the French coastal town of Sangatte fastened to the small flying platform he designed.

From afar, it looked like he was skateboarding on the sky.

But as he descended for a refueling stop about halfway across, the platform he was meant to land on was moving too much due to waves. So he was not able to grab onto it, and he fell into the water, his wife Christelle said.

He was rescued by French divers and is doing fine, she told The Associated Press.

"These are the kind of things that can happen," she said. He traveled more kilometers than he expected, and faster than he expected, so she said it wasn't a total disaster.

"He will do it again," she said. "He never sits back after a failure."

Zapata had hoped to make it across 36 kilometers (22.4 miles) to the Dover area in southeast England in about 20 minutes. He was carrying a power pack full of kerosene, and was planning to refuel from a boat partway across.

Zapata, 40, wowed crowds in Paris on Bastille Day, whirling over European leaders on the flyboard. But crossing the windy, ship-filled Channel is a much tougher challenge.

He scheduled Thursday's flight to coincide with the 110th anniversary of the first flight across the Channel, by French aviator Louis Bleriot on July 25, 1909 - who also left from Sangatte after multiple failed attempts.

The beach where Zapata took off Thursday bears Bleriot's name.
Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.