French Inventor to Attempt English Channel Crossing on a Hoverboard

This week marks the 110th anniversary of the first airplane flight between the U.K. and France. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, a French inventor and daredevil will attempt to replicate that same journey using a hoverboard instead.

On Thursday, Franky Zapata will set out Sangatte and head towards St. Margaret’s Bay on a Flyboard Air, which he himself designed. The small craft is described as a ” jet powered personal aerial vehicle, capable of VTOL and unprecedented individual mobility.” The Frenchman has demonstrated its capabilities on several occasions in the past, but he says that using it to cross the English Channel will be the biggest test to date. Apparently, he’s been training on the device for weeks now in preparation for the stunt, which estimates has about a 30% chance of success.

Capable of traveling at speeds of up to 140 km/h (87 mph), the Flyboard Air features five turbo-charged engines capable of as much as 250 horsepower. The vehicle consists of the board itself, a remote control that Zapata uses to direct its flight, and a fuel tank that he wears on his back. That tank will need to be changed mid-flight however, as it only has enough fuel to keep the Flyboard in the air for about 10 minutes at a time. The inventor estimates that it will take him about twice that to cover the 35 km (21 mile) journey across the Channel.

If successful, this will be the longest hoverboard flight ever conducted by far. That’s still a big if however, as Zapata has never taken it out for such a long ride. He’ll be accompanied in the crossing by a support boat to ensure that he stays safe throughout. That boat will also allow him to change out the fuel tank at the mid-way point.

In the video above you can get an idea of what the Flyboard looks like and how it maneuvers around. It is surprisingly quick and agile, although Zapata says that in order to get it to maneuver like that requires 50 to 100 hours of training. Still, the technology has a lot of promise and the French military has expressed interest in exploring ways to use it in the future as well. Personally, I think it looks like a lot of fun, but fairly dangerous too. Hopefully this English Channel crossing will be a good proof of concept of its capabilities.

Kraig Becker