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15 February 2017

Fire Department says hovercraft training has “paid off”

In 2015, Iowa’s Council Bluffs Fire Department purchased a new 6-passenger Neoteric rescue hovercraft. Immediately their first responders completed a Flight Training Course at Hovercraft Training Centers, which included flood rescue techniques on the Wabash River, then at 22.8 ft. flood stage.

The steep Wabash River boat ramp is submerged in water all the way to the parking lot
as Council Bluffs’ first responders begin their training.
After their pilot training, Fire Chief Justin James reported, “It was awesome being able to operate in deep and shallow flood water without having to worry about destroying a motor or a boat. We also got to train rescuing victims that may be stranded in trees or roofs of homes due to rising waters. We simply used the craft to hover into and hold position near these real obstacles.”

In less than a month, their training started paying off, with the rescue of a man from a muddy flooded river, with more than 60 feet of deep mud and 20 feet of shallow water to cross before reaching him. Chief James said, “The amount of time it took us to get out there would have been drastically longer if we didn’t have the hovercraft.

And two years later, Council Bluffs’ flight training and rescue hovercraft are still proving their worth. Last weekend the department rescued a fisherman who had fallen through the ice and was submerged in frigid water while clinging to the ice shelf. Capt. Jim Maaske said their hovercraft let the rescuers find the man quickly and hover directly to him without putting themselves at risk … and added, “All the training paid off today.”

Council Bluffs Fire Dept. takes a quick test flight after a successful ice rescue Feb. 11 on Lake Manawa.

First Responders:

See Hovercraft Training Centers & Neoteric Hovercraft at FDIC 2017, Booth 2704
Register to win one of three FREE Hovercraft Flight Training Courses
(Valued at $1,575 each)

23 January 2017

Firefighters / First Responders: See Hovercraft Training Centers & Neoteric Hovercraft at FDIC 2017

Hovercraft Training Centers and Neoteric Hovercraft will be featured at this year’s FDIC (Fire Department Instructor Conference). The world’s largest firefighter conference and expo - attended by 35,000+ firefighters, chiefs and instructors from more than 53 nations - takes place April 24-29 in Indianapolis at the Lucas Oil Stadium and Indiana Convention Center.

If your department still relies on ropes, boats and other apparatus for water, ice and mud rescues, you’ll definitely want to visit us at Booth #2704 and …

1) Watch videos of hovercraft rescue operations by HTC-trained pilots
2) Fly a remote-controlled hovercraft.
3) Get answers to all your questions about rescue hovercraft and pilot training.
4) Register to win one of three FREE Hovercraft Flight Training Courses, valued at $1,575 each!    

The Hovercraft Training Centers / Neoteric Hovercraft booth at last year's FDIC.
Flat bottom Jon boats and other watercraft are of questionable use in shallow water, swiftwater, flood, ice and mud rescues, and they can be seriously dangerous to you and to the lives you’re tasked to save. Come see how a Neoteric rescue hovercraft can greatly improve the safety, ease, speed and success of your rescue operations … while keeping you above the danger – not in it. It quickly flies you into areas where no other vehicle can go, and it’s the only hovercraft with the ability to brake and back up. 

But don’t just take our word for it. See what HTC-trained first responders around the world say about their Neoteric Hovercraft in comparison to other rescue vehicles …

Council Bluffs Fire Department, Iowa:

Central Fraser Valley Search & Rescue Society, Canada:
"The hovercraft gets us into areas that, before, we weren't able to reach, areas that our jet boat can't get into because we ingest debris into the impeller. And the hovercraft saves us a lot of time."

North Muskegon Fire Department, Michigan:
"Our hovercraft have saved more lives that all our fire engines combined. Since 1985, more than 255 people have been rescued from Muskegon area lakes using the hovercraft. More than half of them would have drowned not having the hovercraft as a safe rescue tool."

Mansfield Fire Department, Texas:
"The benefit of having the hovercraft is we do not have to send our personnel into the water to retrieve victims. It can also hover over logs, car tires and any other debris, unlike boats, that could be a hazard in the water. A hovercraft is the answer to a faster rescue - a safer rescue."

Davis County Sheriff's Office, Utah:
"Our hovercraft, without question, has saved lives. Much of our county is covered by the Great Salt Lake, and when the water is low it leaves miles of mudflats boats can't reach. We can't get airboats out there. When it's extremely windy it's hard to get an aircraft or helicopter out there, and even walking out is impossible. We were putting rescuers in harm's way, but the hovercraft allows us to hover over mud, ice or water and get right to the patient - to literally reach out our hand and pull them out."

Read more about Hovercraft Pilot Training ...


Learn more about Neoteric Hovercraft ...

09 October 2016

Neoteric Hovercraft: A popular tourist attraction in China

At Hovercraft Training Centers, we provide far more than standard hovercraft flight training. For instance, our Master Hovercraft Pilot & Maintenance Training course teaches those who use hovercraft professionally to train others and to independently maintain and repair their hovercraft. This minimizes travel expenses for our customers and for our personnel, as well.

A good example is the recent hovercraft flight training that took place in China. Yellow River Tourist Attractions in LuLiang City, Shanxi Province, already owns one 4-passenger Model 3877 Neoteric hovercraft and, due to its popularity, the company has increased their fleet with two additional 6-passenger Model 5854 Neoteric craft.

Neoteric’s agent, Mr. Huang Xiaogang, President of China Hai Pai Hovercraft, Ltd. – the leading hovercraft company in China – sent two of his engineers to conduct the training.

First, the Hai Pai engineers (in red) conduct ground instruction for Yellow River Tourist Attractions’ additional pilots, which includes the basics of hovercraft function, operation and maintenance …

Next, flight training begins. Hai Pai Engineer Mr. Lu Chun Zhong (in red) familiarizes the pilot trainees with the operational features of the Neoteric hovercraft. Here, he explains that its patented reverse thrust buckets make the Neoteric Hovertrek™ the only hovercraft on the market than can brake, fly backward and hover in place …

The Yellow River, where training took place and where all three hovercraft will be operated for tourism, is the second-longest river in China and the fifth-longest in the world. It’s famous for being the “mother river” of China and the cradle of Chinese civilization (2100-1046 BC).

It takes its name from its muddy yellow water coming from the sediments it carries. Because of its heavy silting, ordinary boats can’t be used on the Yellow River. And in the last five years, it has flooded more than 1,600 times. Since Neoteric hovercraft are used globally as flood rescue vehicles, these three tourism hovercraft could serve a double purpose!

Unlike other vehicles, the Neoteric hovercraft flies easily across water and mud during flight training …

At the end of the day, Yellow River Tourist Attractions’ newly-trained additional hovercraft pilots proudly display their flight training certifications …

LuLiang City, with a population of more than 3.7 million, is located in the LuLiang Mountains. It has four distinct seasons, but is a tourist destination all year. Now its visitors, from China and from elsewhere in the world, will have an increased opportunity to see the many attractions along the Yellow River in areas that no vehicle other than a hovercraft can reach.

But the Neoteric hovercraft as a Chinese tourist attraction doesn’t stop there …

Recently, Neoteric’s China Hai Pai Hovercraft arranged a HoverTrek™presentation in YiWu, China for Mr. Gu ChaoXi, Vice-Minister of Civil Affairs, and Major General WenPing Feng, a Commander in the Chinese People's Liberation Army.  

The presentation took place while the YiWu Emergency Rescue Team used their Neoteric Model 3626 65hp 4-passenger hovercraft to conduct flight training for additional pilots.

After the flight training, the Team’s Neoteric craft appeared at the famous annual Jujube (Red Date) Festival in Qikou Ancient City, near LuLiang. The festival celebrates the jujube fruit, also known as red dates or Chinese dates – which have been cultivated in China for more than 4,000 years - and includes a wide assortment of cultural entertainment such as folk operas and dance performances …

And this year, one of the festival's popular features was a Neoteric hovercraft ...

For more than two centuries, Qikou, a unique terraced city carved into a steep hillside on the banks of the Yellow River, served as a vital trade hub. Goods coming by river had to be off-loaded in Qikou because the water was too shallow for boats to pass, then everything was loaded onto camel trains. But following the introduction of rail transport in the 1930s, the town fell into economic decline.

On a positive note, the decline helped preserve Qikou’s ancient structures from being redeveloped into new buildings … and now new life has been injected into the city by the rapidly growing tourism industry.

It’s official: Hovercraft + Training + Tourism = success in China!

13 September 2016

Pakistan Air Force discovers importance of hovercraft pilot training

In 2013, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Sea Survival School (SSS) purchased two 4-passenger Neoteric Rescue Hovercraft for security patrol along the Korangi Creek Air Force Base shoreline in Karachi, Pakistan. The curved shoreline contains mudflats and mangroves that make it inaccessible to vehicles other than hovercraft. 

One of the two Neoteric Rescue Hovercraft purchased by the Pakistan Air Force
Sea Survival School is shown here during preliminary testing on the
Wabash River in Terre Haute, IN.

At the time of purchase, the PAF’s budget did not allow for their hovercraft to be equipped for saltwater operation, or for flight training and maintenance instruction. Due to this lack of training – which includes teaching the additional maintenance procedures required when a hovercraft is not equipped for saltwater operation – both of the PAF’s hovercraft suffered deterioration.

Fortunately, both Hovercraft Training Centers and Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc. offer dedicated customer service. Chris Fitzgerald, HTC Senior Instructor and Neoteric President, traveled to Pakistan for a week to conduct maintenance instruction, to provide onsite flight training, and to assist in upgrading both Air Force hovercraft for saltwater operations.

The work was done at the PAF Sea Survival School, under the command of Squadron Leader Raza Khan, the Commanding Officer of the SSS. Wing Commander Mahmood traveled from Islamabad to review the training program. The following personnel were involved in the restoration of the two hovercraft: Squadron Leader Raza Khan; Senior Technician Mahid (electronics & weapons); Chief Technician Mairaj (ground transport engines); HS-1 Rashid (electrical); Skilled TM Wagar (student fitter); HS-2 Iqbal (painter); Skilled TM Najam (maintenance) and Chief Technician Farooq (road transportation driver).

The Pakistan Air Force hovercraft maintenance crew and pilots pose for a photo in their workshop/storage facility. Left to right: Chief Tech Mairij, HS-2 Iqbal, HS-1 Rashid (electrical), Skilled TM Wagar, instructor Chris Fitzgerald, a security guard,
Skilled TM Najam and Senior Technician Majid.

Senior Technician Majid (left) and Chief Technician Mairij undergo maintenance training
while assisting in upgrading the two rescue hovercraft for saltwater operation.

The Pakistan Air Force Sea Survival School hovercraft team, from the left: Skilled TM Wagar, HS-1 Rashid, Skilled TM Najam, Senior Technician Majid, HS-2 Iqbal, 
Security Guard, Chief Technician Mairij, and a visitor on the far right.

The PAF Sea Survival School:
The primary role of the Pakistan Air Force Sea Survival School is to train fighter pilots in “survival at sea.” In addition to their two hovercraft, the SSS also operates several fleets of sailboats, windsurfing boards, motor launches, jet skis and inflatable dinghies for rescue missions, training and for the PAF’s participation in national and international competitions. In addition, Pakistan and surrounding nations rely heavily on the PAF for tsunami, cyclone, earthquake and flood rescue operations.

The Pakistan Air Force Sea Survival School in Karachi, Pakistan.

Chris Fitzgerald reports that the SSS has an excellent, wide and gently sloping concrete hoverway reaching out to the sea. During his visit, the prevailing 15 mph winds continually generated 1- to 2-foot waves. He says, “This was an outstanding team of dedicated and cheerful people who worked relentlessly under harsh conditions to restore both hovercraft in a limited time frame.

The importance of hovercraft training:
Due to the omission of flight and maintenance training when the Pakistan Air Force purchased their two hovercraft in 2013, the craft suffered enough damage that their refurbishment, and maintenance training to personnel, took longer than anticipated. This left insufficient time for flight training. Chris Fitzgerald was able to give preliminary pilot training only to Commander Raza and Chief Technician Mairij. But this can be rectified by additional flight training either onsite in Pakistan or at Hovercraft Training Centers in the U.S.

Make no mistake: a hovercraft is a flying machine. You don’t drive it - you fly it 9 inches above the surface. Just as you wouldn’t jump into a helicopter and take off without proper flight training, neither should you do so with a hovercraft.

Capt. Cory Lingelbach, a U.S. Air Force firefighter and hovercraft pilot at the Hill Air Force Base Utah Test & Training Range, explains the importance of training quite concisely: 

Trying to fly a hovercraft without training would be nuts! We use our hovercraft on and off our base. Without the level of training sophistication that Hovercraft Training Centers provided, we would never be able to perform our missions the way we do.

Capt. Cory Lingelbach (left) and his fellow U.S. Air Force personnel
went through flight training and maintenance instruction when they took
possession of their new rescue hovercraft at the Neoteric factory.

Capt. Lingelbach enrolled in Hovercraft Training Centers’ Advanced Training Course, which includes hard access, fast-flowing water rescue and nighttime operational training. For he and his team, learning how to operate a hovercraft properly has not only proven to boost the safety of their rescues, but it has also dramatically improved their response times. The UTTR Air Force rescue team has reduced its recovery time from an average of two hours with ATVs to just 20 minutes with hovercraft.

Military personnel and first responders: 
Learn how a Neoteric Hovercraft gives you faster, safer rescues ...

Then take a Test Flight to see for yourselves.

11 February 2016

Hovercraft Pilot Training for the world’s leading gold mining company

Hovercraft Training Centers’ Senior Instructor Chris Fitzgerald just returned from the Dominican Republic where he conducted a week of flight training at Barrick Gold Corporation’s Pueblo Viejo gold, silver and copper mine. Their Neoteric hovercraft will be used for the mine’s exceptional biodiversity and environmental projects, as well as for surveying and safety & security.

A hovercraft is the only vehicle able to travel over the hazardous sections of the mine’s five tailings ponds. And it’s only natural that the Neoteric HoverTrek™ - with an environmental impact less than that of a seagull standing on one leg - was the vehicle of choice for Barrick, the most ecologically conscious mining company in existence.

The mine purchased its hovercraft in 2012, but without training it was passed from department to department and eventually left to sit idle in a maintenance yard where it became damaged. It was discovered in 2015 by the mine’s Department of Biological and Ecological Sciences, who requested that they take charge of the craft. Next, they arranged onsite maintenance and pilot training with Hovercraft Training Centers. Eleven employees completed classroom and maintenance training and four of them underwent flight training. 

Pueblo Viejo personnel receive their certifications after a week of classroom, maintenance and flight training. From left: Mara Fernanchez (technical translator); Carlos Paredes (mechanic crane shop); Yeison De la Rosa (lead hand for the pond); Anthony Emil Beltre Nobou (draftsman surveyor); Chris Fitzgerald (Instructor); Rafael Torres Liriano (technician in biodiversity lab); Jhon N Ozoria Lora (senior surveyor and drone pilot); Rafael Zeonorch Romess (mine maintenance and chauffeur); Moises Alejandro Musalem Rodriguez (biologist); Geller Nicanor Vazquez (hovercraft champion or leader, environmental technician); Juan Carlos Santos (environmental technician). Absent: Victor Manuel Korval Heredia (equipment operator for the pond) …

At the El Llagal Tailings Pond, trainees prepare to launch the hovercraft for flight training.
A large area of the pond is filled with muddy clay, consisting of fine red particles and water. 
The hovercraft is the only vehicle capable of crossing this material ...

During classroom training, students watch a video that teaches them
the proper procedure for loading and unloading the hovercraft trailer ...

Headquartered in Canada, Barrick Gold Corporation is the world’s leading gold mining company, with operations on five continents. The Pueblo Viejo mine is one of the largest gold mines in the world and is the biggest single investment ever made in the history of the Dominican Republic. Over the 26-year life of the mine, it will produce an annual output of 700,000 ounces of gold and 3,270,000 ounces of silver. You can see the mine’s economic output when you consider that, in US dollars, the current value of gold is $1,196 per ounce and silver is $16 per ounce.

As an example of the company’s emphasis on biodiversity and the environment, Barrick’s Department of Biological and Ecological Sciences is spending more than $2 million on a project to study and preserve several endangered tree frog species that would be impacted by its Pueblo Viejo mine. The project includes a captive breeding program with two facilities – one in the El Llagal Valley where the frogs live and another at the Santo Domingo Zoo. The project resulted in the frogs’ reclassification from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a process known as down-listing. 

A researcher tends to the tree frogs at the Barrick breeding facility near the Pueblo Viejo mine ...

Barrick also operates a large archeological program in and around the Pueblo Viejo mine. In 2010, this effort resulted in the discovery of artifacts revealing that Pueblo Viejo is the first mine in the Americas, built by colonists after Christopher Columbus discovered America. Excavations also unearthed the remains of a small colonial Spanish Church and miners’ living quarters dating back to 1513. These valuable ruins were carefully relocated and preserved.

Other historical finds include bones, pottery and art – including a German beer stein preceding Columbus’ time, and a glazed stoneware stein engraved by the renowned German Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer.

Archaeologists examine ruins from the first colonial mine in the Americas,
discovered at Barrick’s Pueblo Viejo mine in 2010 ...

Their frog project, their archeological program – and proper training on their Neoteric hovercraft – are just a few of the many ways Barrick is endeavoring to protect and preserve the environment, wildlife and history of Pueblo Viejo. The company is also conducting the largest environmental cleanup in the country’s history, reversing damage caused by a mining operation that closed without proper remediation in 1999.

08 December 2015

Flight training + A Neoteric Hovercraft = Ice rescue safety

Even before his flight training at Hovercraft Training Centers, Sgt. Rick Holtgrave of the Branch County Sheriff’s Department in Coldwater, Michigan knew that there are no reliable alternatives to hovercraft as the best rescue vehicle for his team’s dangerous missions on icy Lake Michigan: "We're just screwed if we have to go out on a bad ice,” he said, “There is no other equipment. Otherwise, we'd just be pushing boats and ropes and hoping for the best."

In the following article published in Michigan’s Shoreline Magazine, Sgt. Holtgrave and Sheriff John Pollack detail how their Neoteric hovercraft makes ice rescues much easier – and safer …

Branch County hovercraft can help make ice rescues safer
by Christy Hart-Harris

Sgt. Rick Holtgrave pilots the Department's Neoteric hovercraft. He and Branch County Sheriff John Pollack agree that their hovercraft is an invaluable tool for ice rescues.

Winter is fast approaching and with the cold temperatures come ice and winter sports. Among the more popular winter sports are ice fishing, ice skating and sledding. Those who have grown up on one of the many lakes in Michiana know how much fun all these winter activities can be.

With vast hills along the lakeshores, many kids enjoy sledding down them to the iced-over lake below whiles others prefer to show off their skills with a figure 8 or race their friends on ice skates.

Then there is the most popular winter activity among Michiganders – ice fishing. It is considered by many to be a very relaxing way to spend the day.

Simply walking on the ice can be a unique experience, especially when the snow obscures the view of what lies beneath. Like any activities, safety should be the top priority when on the ice.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources advises those who venture out on the ice this winter to “steer clear of dark spots or places where the snow looks discolored.”

Important rules to follow when on the ice include:
- Never go alone.
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Always test the ice with a spud.
- Take the appropriate emergency items, such as a lifejacket and ice picks.
- Take a cell phone in case you need to call for help.
- Dress in your warmest winter clothes.
- Fill a Thermos with hot coffee, chocolate or tea.

Although lake goers may think the danger of drowning is more prevalent during the summer months, drowning is the seventh leading cause of accidental death in the United States, even in the winter.

For this reason, Sgt. Rick Holtgrave of the Branch County Marine Control purchased a hovercraft to assist the Branch County Sheriff’s Department eight-member dive team in rescue missions.

“I purchased this thinking, ‘Okay, we have a tool in the tool box,’” Holtgrave said. “It’s not the only tool, but it is a tool for all of us to utilize in a rescue mission. It’s there if we need it.”

Holtgrave and Branch County Sheriff John Pollack agree that the hovercraft is a vital tool when dealing with iced-over lakes and ice activities in the winter.

The hovercraft has the capability of skimming over thin ice, water, mud and grass. By using this tool, rescuers will be able to save the lives of those who may fall through the ice while preserving the safety of the rescue teams.

With the ability to hold at least 900 pounds, the hovercraft works by pushing air from the engine out of the back of the craft. In return, that air fills each one of the skirts along the base. Maintaining the RPMs and utilizing the reverse thrust keeps the craft operating properly.

“We’re in the process of training,” Pollack said. “We need to train a second operator in case Rick is not available. We need to train officers so they know what to expect from the craft so they know its limitations and what it can do. The fire department is on board with training. They won’t operate it; they just need to know when to call it out and when not to, what it is capable of doing. Rick is the only one currently trained on it.”

The hovercraft is capable of going 60 mph forward and 26 mph backward. Its capability is also critical in residential areas that may become flooded because underwater obstacles such as fences, fallen trees, submerged walls and vehicles cannot affect the craft.

“The biggest thing for us is the ice, particularly thin ice,” Pollack said. “Two problems that we have are human and animal. Whenever we have a rescue on thin ice, our option is to utilize the fire department. They are tethered on a 20-foot rope. Beyond that it’s too far for them to go. It becomes too difficult to rescue the rescuers.”

“All those dangers are what we used to have to face, but now with this hovercraft we can get out there, make the rescue and get right back. It gives the rescuer a secure platform to get the rescue done,” Pollack said. “It will save us on personnel. The fire department will send two or three trucks and it may be a dog that needs to be rescued. Most people are like, oh it’s a dog, no big deal but, if you can imagine if it were your dog, you would want to save it. If we didn’t, when we leave, what are they going to do? They are going to go out on that ice and save it, so it’s best for us to go out and save it so the owner doesn’t.”

Pollack said in the near future they hope to be able to share the hovercraft with surrounding counties.


See how a hovercraft would benefit your department

18 October 2015

Hovercraft Rescues Stranded Pontoon Boat

Sometimes boats are used as rescue vehicles. But, but far too often, boats are the vehicles being rescued - by hovercraft. 
Just ask Indiana's White River Hazleton Fire Department. Their Neoteric rescue hovercraft, and their flight training at Hovercraft Training Centers, enables them to save lives - and stranded boats - in areas no other vehicle can reach, such as shallow or fast-flowing water. As firefighter Mark Ellis says, "We're able to provide a service with the hovercraft that no one else can provide."

The Department services a flood-prone area on the banks of three rivers including the White River, which drains 70% of the state.

Shown here during their 2011 HTC flight training on their Neoteric rescue hovercraft are, clockwise from left:
White River Hazleton firefighter Mark Ellis; Fire Chief Mike Ellis;
Capt. Stan Capobianco, Indiana Dept. of Homeland Security; and
Chris Fitzerald, Hovercraft Training Centers' Senior Flight Instructor.
Their superior hovercraft and professional training has let White River Hazleton successfully perform many difficult rescues during the last five years. Enjoy the following article about their most recent success - rescuing a pontoon boat ...

Mt. Carmel Register
Oct. 7, 2015
by Marcus Smith

Hovercraft called in to rescue stranded boat

MOUNT CARMEL- Wabash Emergency Management Agency (WEMA) had to call in Hazleton’s White River Water Rescue and its hovercraft to rescue a stuck pontoon boat on the Wabash River Monday morning.

Shawn Lane, of Fairfield, and Bill Woodall, of Albion, went out to do some fishing before having engine troubles and becoming stuck south of the boat ramp by Twin Rivers Restaurant.

Woodall said the motor stopped running and the pair drifted down river until they became stuck. Gerald Brooks, WEMA coordinator, said the depth of the river was so shallow that they couldn’t get a rescue boat close enough to the stranded craft to help.

“Not the best thing to do, going out on the river when it’s this shallow,” he said.

Initially, Brooks thought the people might have to be pulled from the craft, and a plan would have to be devised further down the road to tow the boat in.

“The boat might have to sit there for a while,” Brooks said.

White River Water Rescue from Hazleton, Indiana was called in to assist with its hovercraft.

Mike Ellis, White River Township Fire Chief, said the plan was to raise the motor on the pontoon boat out of the water, get the boat floating downstream and tow it to a downstream boat ramp.

After raising the motor out of the water the boat began to drift down river before hanging up on another set of rocks.

The passengers of the boat could be seen rocking the boat back and forth trying to break free. When that didn’t work, a tow rope was thrown from the pontoon boat to the hovercraft.

With one of the passengers of each craft holding on to the rope, the hovercraft was used to break the pontoon boat free, and then tow it to a private boat ramp downstream.


First responders: see how a hovercraft will expand your rescue capabilities:

It's easy to take a Test Flight or Training Course ...