French inventor Franky Zapata lands near St. Margaret's beach, Dover after crossing the Channel on a flying board Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)

A bird? A plane? French inventor flies over English Channel

August 04, 2019 - 4:57 am

SANGATTE, France (AP) — Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a French inventor flying over the English Channel on his hoverboard.

Looking like a superhero, Franky Zapata successfully completed the famed 35-kilometer (22-mile) journey in just 22 minutes Sunday morning, reaching speeds of up to 177 kilometers per hour (110 mph) on the hoverboard that has made him a household name in France.

Propelled by a power pack full of kerosene, Zapata set off from Sangatte in France's Pas de Calais region and landed in Saint Margaret's Bay in the Dover area of southeast England. He stopped only once, on the British side, to refuel his invention from a boat in the choppy waters.

"I tried to enjoy it and not think about the pain ... I'm very lucky," he told reporters after the feat.

It was, of course, the record for such a trip: No one else has tried to cross the channel in his way.

It was also a personal record — the furthest distance that the 40-year-old, who drew nationwide attention after whizzing above European leaders in Paris at Bastille Day celebrations, had ever traveled atop his hoverboard.

The wind in the Channel, especially gusts, presented a major challenge, he said, adding that he bends into gusts but is destabilized if the wind quickly dies.

Sunday was the inventor's second attempt to cross the Channel.

His first — 10 days ago — culminated in him colliding with a refueling boat several minutes into his flight. That destroyed his transportation, a version of the flyboard that his company sells commercially.

Zapata told reporters that this time he was "scared to touch down" at the refueling station on the sea but knew his team "whatever happened, wouldn't let me fall into the water."

He said he and his team worked around the clock to pull off the feat.

"All week, we worked 16 hours a day ... we worked like crazy," he said.

French maritime authorities said the refueling operation was dangerous, even though Zapata nixed his initial plan to refuel the power pack he wears during his flight from a flying platform.

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