Breitling – The technical watch specialist and partner to the greatest aeronautical feats has become the main sponsor of this exceptional flying machine project that allows a man in an upright position to whizz through the air powered by jet engines. A new chapter in conquering the skies and overcoming the most insane challenges.
Born in Marseille in 1978, Franky Zapata initially dreamed of flying on water. At the age of 16, this led him to try out jet-skiing – a discipline on which he has made a strong impression as a professional test driver and with his many victories at European and world championships.
But Zapata is not simply an exceptional athlete. He is also driven by a pioneering spirit, the desire to go the extra mile and to conquer new frontiers. In 2011, he invented the ESH Flyboard®, a hydro-propulsion board connected to a jet-ski making it possible to ‘fly’ above the water. This unprecedented machine wasted no time in becoming a new sport as well as a demanding, highly spectacular new competition discipline that is practiced on an international level.
A passionate man and a true fighter, Zapata also founded his own company, Zapata Racing®, which today offers various types of hydro-propulsion engines for recreational and competitive purposes – such as the Flyboard® Pro Series, Hoverboard by ZR® and Jetpack by ZR® seat. All are machines procuring new thrills in total safety, much to the delight of millions of users all over the world.
With Flyboard® Air, launched in April 2016, Franky Zapata has taken things to a new level by developing a machine capable of being airborne completely independently. The result of four years’ development, this “autonomous propulsion unit” (APU), currently in its prototype phase, is a board weighing around 20 kg equipped with six engines (four under the board and two on the sides) which stabilize it – and which required the development of a highly sophisticated software program. Standing upright on this UFO, which is barely bigger than a large drone, the pilot drives it by means of “mass transfer”, like a Segway, joystick in hand to adjust the thrust.
Franky Zapata has already completed several very successful – and high-profile – trials with Flyboard® Air and set the world record, registered in the Guinness Book of Records, for the longest distance travelled on a flying board (of the hoverboard type). Like any true aeronautical professional, he attaches great importance to safety and his APU has been designed to work even in the event of engine failure. When it comes to performance, Flyboard® Air, also sometimes known as a “jet board” has ambitious targets, with a top speed of 160 km/h and maximum altitude of 3000 m – as Franky Zapata’s dream is to fly above the clouds one day. Aside from the sporty, fun side to it, this innovative machine could also be used in many areas such as oil rigs, skyscraper and bridge maintenance or the military.
By supporting the Flyboard® Air project, Breitling’s intention is once again to foster the spirit of daring and invention that has always characterized aviation since the time of the very first “magnificent men in their flying machines” – that taste for adventure, that combination of daring and discipline, which consistently drive aeronautics to push the boundaries of feasibility.