After winning jet-ski competitions all over the world and boldly flying across the English Channel on a hoverboard he designed and built, inventor Franky Zapata wants to land in the automotive industry by pioneering the flying sports car segment. It sounds like a pipe dream or a cool movie prop at best, but the 40-year-old Frenchman is already testing prototypes, and he plans to unveil his wildest creation yet in the coming months.
“I need to finish building my flying car, I need to introduce it before the end of the year. I’m going to go home, take a little vacation, and then — with the help of my team — work on it nonstop to make sure it’s ready in time,” Zapata told French news station BFM TV after successfully crossing the English Channel on his Flyboard Air hoverboard.
The list of companies that have embarked on million-dollar attempts to make cars fly is nearly endless, but Zapata’s past accomplishments put him in a better position than most to pull it off. Besides, he’s not interested in locking horns with Uber for a slice of the burgeoning flying taxi segment; he wants to create a flying performance car.
He revealed he been quietly developing a flying car powered by an evolution of the technology found in his Flyboard Air for some time, and added its basic chassis has already flown above a test track, but the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) hasn’t given him permission to explore the skies with it yet. He expects to receive permission by the end of August 2019. The DGAC’s proverbial nod of approval will let Zapata’s team significantly speed up the development process.
Technical specifications remain under wraps, but Zapata explained the prototype chassis he flew above a test facility near Marseilles in the south of France was powered by four gas turbines. The final production version he plans to build will use 10 turbines, a layout that will allow it to carry more weight while going faster. Once airborne, it will be able to cruise between 190 and 250 mph, and it will have a driving range of about 70 miles.
We don’t know what it will look like yet, or how many passengers it will be able to carry. It sounds like the design phase is done, though. Zapata’s yet-unnamed car will head to the body shop for paint and minor work during the first half of August 2019, so we’re hoping to see it sooner rather than later.