Video: Franky Zapata survives whirling jetboard crash
Ah, those magnificent men in their flying machines. They go up, diddly-up-up. They go down, diddly-own-down. French sky-surfer and Green Goblin lookalike Franky Zapata went down diddly-own-down in frightening fashion at an airshow on the weekend.
Zapata's Jetboard Air is a remarkable device, a personal flight platform with a small jet turbine at each corner, fueled by a backpack full of kerosene. The pilot rises into the air on a column of roaring thrust, boots locked into the board, controlling motion mainly via body balance.
This came naturally to Zapata, as a former jet ski champion – indeed, Zapata first invented the flyboard as a jet ski attachment flying on water jets, before shocking the world by taking it off its tethers with a set of JetCat turbines, flying it on kerosene and creating a true hoverboard capable of crazy speeds and impressive distances.
Zapata has been more than happy to demonstrate the Flyboard Air wherever possible, occasionally drawing criticism for what some consider to be a rather cavalier approach to safety. A few years back, for example, he starred in a viral video by devinsupertramp, racing against a Lamborghini at speeds over 100 mph (160 km/h), with nothing but the rocky Utah desert to cushion his fall if something was to go awry. It didn't, and the footage is undeniably spectacular.
Yesterday, something did go wrong. Performing at a seaplane show in Biscarosse, France, Zapata lifted off from his elevated platform by a lake, and immediately began to spin, as if one of the Flyboard's jets was malfunctioning. It took Zapata about 10 seconds to stop rising, reaching an altitude we'd estimate at well over 20 m (66 ft). He did an admirable job of keeping the jetboard upright as it began to fall, spinning faster and faster before crashing down into the water, as you'll see in the video below.
It's incredibly lucky, or perhaps a testament to Zapata's skill, that he managed to get the thing out over the lake before crashing – if it had spun off in a different direction the results could have been much more serious.
As it was, the 40-year-old Zapata was conscious when emergency services pulled him out of the lake and took him to hospital for observation and assessment. He appeared to be in excellent humor when he later addressed the incident in his own tweet.
Roughly translated, it reads as follows: "Good evening everyone. Thank you for your messages, I'm fine. This reminds us that we're not birds, and that if we're not excellent, it's gravity that wins. Finally, a good Sunday of rest, and Monday it starts again! We can only learn from mistakes, and we shouldn't think we can change mobility without making a few! Thanks to my rescuers, you made sure I didn't 'drink from the big cup.' I'm sorry for the public, who were inconvenienced, but I promise this is only a postponement!"
This isn't the first time the Flyboard Air has landed Zapata in the drink – he's taken an unscheduled bath at least once before, when choppy conditions made it impossible for him to land on his support boat for refueling during an attempt to cross the English Channel. It's certainly scarier, though, to crash due to apparent equipment failure, and from such a height. We're very relieved to hear Zapata wasn't seriously injured and will live to continue refining and developing his jetboard technology.
Source: "Alex" (Twitter)