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19 March 2014

Dan Brown: “If you don’t train, you’re taking your life into your own hands.”

Dan Brown, an optometrist from Olney, IL, had owned a Hovertechnics hovercraft for 15 years – but he rarely used it. “I had no training; I just read the manual and I wasn’t that confident in it. I probably flew it only 5 hours or so over the years.”

The craft’s previous owner was also untrained. “He had a bad experience with it,” explains Dan. “With no training, he just jumped in the darn thing and took off. He was out duck hunting and got thrown out of it because he didn’t really know how to run it. It scared the you-know-what out of him so he got rid of it.

So when Dan decided to trade his Hovertechnics craft in on a new Neoteric HoverTrek, he took an HTC training course on the day he picked up his craft. Here, with his new hovercraft and wearing a pleased smile, Dan (right) accepts his pilot certification from HTC Senior Instructor Chris Fitzgerald …

When Dan decided he wanted “something new to play with”, he chose a Neoteric craft for one of the same reasons we use them exclusively at HTC. “I got on the Internet and read about Neoteric’s reverse thrust buckets – and that’s the ticket, right there. That’s what sold me. No other hovercraft can do that!

Watch Dan’s Wabash River flight training session begin last Sunday, a cold and blustery day …

But at HTC, you don’t “just jump in the darn thing and take off.” First, you go through classroom training, covering hovercraft function, operation, and maintenance. Then, as pilot training begins, the instruction continues. First, Dan learned how to easily unload his hovercraft from its trailer …

Then, Chris Fitzgerald took him through a thorough preflight inspection …

Next, Dan learned how to fuel his hovercraft …

Before launching onto the river, both Dan and Chris donned wireless headsets so Dan could receive constant instruction and feedback while he learned to fly his hovercraft …

How did Dan feel after his cold but extensive day of training? “I feel like I got frostbite! But training is definitely important, there’s no question. I really learned a lot in the classroom session. I didn’t realize there was so much that went into it, and I understand it a lot more now. Great day!”  Then he added, “If you don’t train, you’re taking your life into your own hands. Just like the guy I bought the Hovertechnics from – he didn’t have any training, and he ended up getting thrown out of it. If he’d been trained, it wouldn’t have happened.

Training on such a cold day was good practice for Dan, a waterfowl hunter, because he'll be using his new hovercraft primarily in winter. “I live on East Fork Lake, and when it’s frozen over I have trouble getting to places, to my duck blinds. In summer, there are boats everywhere, bass tournaments, water skiers, Sea-Doos – it’s just crazy. In winter, I’ll have the lake to myself. That’s the main thing – I want to be able to get out there when no one else can.

And Dan may also be performing rescues. In 2010, he made headlines by using his Hovertechnics craft to rescue his neighbors’ two border collies when they fell through the ice on East Fork Lake. The Olney Fire Department and nearly 300 people had gathered to save the dogs. Dan relates, “The owner was out on a ladder, trying to grab the dogs with extension cords tied together and the firemen were telling him to get out of the icy water. Another person trying to help also fell through the ice. The dogs were just hanging there; they had the look of death in their eyes. The owner and I flew the hovercraft right up to them, grabbed them out of the water and hovered back right into his yard where he carried them into his house and started thawing them out in a hot bath.”

After that, the fire department asked Dan for his phone number, “so if we need you we can call you.” He may start getting those calls now that he owns a Neoteric hovercraft, known for its rescue capabilities and used by first responders across the world.

But whether its used for recreation or rescue, thanks to his training at HTC, Dan’s new hovercraft won’t just sit in his yard unused for years. “I’ll get out in this new one more,” he says, “I’ll be much more confident with it.”

Whether for rescue or recreation, find out if a hovercraft is right for you;


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