French 'flying soldier' set for Channel challenge

Franky Zapata will not be carrying a gun during his cross-Channel challenge

Former jetski champion Franky Zapata planning to fly from Sangatte, near Calais, to St Margaret’s Bay, just outside Dover, on his 'Flyboard'

If you are travelling by ferry between Dover and Calais on Thursday, July 25, be sure to check the skies - and if you see what looks a little like a man on a flying skateboard, give him a wave.

You will be seeing former jetski champion Franky Zapata, who is now best known as the “flying soldier” after he soared over the July 14 parade in Paris.

His cross-Channel challenge is much more difficult, he said.

Marseille-born Mr Zapata, 40, is planning to cross the short stretch of water separating France and England from Sangatte, near Calais, to St Margaret’s Bay, just outside Dover, on his 'Flyboard' in 20 minutes to mark the 110th anniversary of Louis Bleriot's maiden cross-Channel flight.

“I used 3% of the machine’s capabilities and I’ll need 99% for the Channel. It won’t be easy at all and I reckon I’ve a 30% chance of succeeding,” he told Le Parisien.

He said the flight had the approval of civil aviation authorities - and, despite concerns from maritime officials, he has been told he can attempt the challenge, as long as he informs French maritime rescue services before setting off.

He said his challenge has been made more difficult by French authorities' decision to only let him refuel his flyboard once, rather than the twice he had originally planned.

“This has made the challenge 10 times more difficult,” he said. “It’s a completely arbitrary and unreasonable decision.”

No time has yet been set for take-off from Sangatte. Mr Zapata said a decision would be made on the day, and would depend on weather conditions.

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