Franky Zapata, "Le Rocketman", a 40-year-old inventor, performs a training flight over the Saint Inglevert airport near Calais, Northern France, Wednesday July 24, 2019. (Photo: AP)
The man who wowed the crowd in Paris on Bastille Day, whirling over France’s leaders on his flyboard, was undertaking final checks Wednesday for his biggest challenge yet: Soaring across the English Channel.
Franky Zapata told reporters that it’s all systems go but conceded it’s “not an easy challenge.”
Zapata, 40, plans to takeoff Thursday, anchored to his flyboard — a small flying platform he invented — from Sangatte, in France’s Pas de Calais region to the Dover area in southeast England.
He said he’s confident but he didn’t want to make projections about his arrival across the 36-kilometer (22.4-mile) stretch of water.
He expects his average speed to be about 140 kph (87 mph).
The wind in the Channel, especially gusts, presents a major challenge, he said, adding that he bends into gusts but is destabilized when the wind quickly dies.
What began as a “simple dream” has taken form, with last-minute changes, including only one chance to refuel, from a boat on the British side. 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.
“We’ve created a new way to fly. ... You’re like a bird. It’s your body that flies,” he said.
Zapata said he was an aviation fan since his youth and wanted to become a helicopter pilot but was prevented by his colorblindness.
Asked if he was crazy, he said, “No. On the contrary!”