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10 April 2014

Weather is No Obstacle for a Hovercraft – or for Flight Training

Larry Borland may not be a postman, but the postal creed, “Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail shall keep the couriers from their appointed rounds” certainly applied to his training day at HTC!

Just like a hovercraft can handle any sort of weather, so can Larry, a 71-year-old retired farmer from North Dakota. Braving a gray, rainy day and a fast-flowing, flooded Wabash River, Larry enthusiastically completed thorough – if soggy – pilot and maintenance training in his new Neoteric hovercraft last weekend at HTC headquarters.

Here Larry (center), accompanied by his son Brent (left) receives his hovercraft pilot certification from HTC Senior Instructor Chris Fitzgerald. Of course, the rain let up after drenching him during his training!

Larry first thought about buying a Neoteric hovercraft kit and building it himself, with some help from his son, Brent, who owns a repair shop, but then he decided to buy a fully-assembled craft. Judging from his expression as he starts his flight training, he seems to be pleased with it! 

Why a hovercraft? Larry, who lives on a lake, says, “I don’t walk so well anymore and it’ll be nice to step into something on dry ground – I’ve watched people trying to launch their boats – and hover right out into the lake. It’s easier access. I can give my grandkids rides and do some fishing and maybe some hunting in it.”

Brent, an avid outdoorsman, has a camper in a marina on the same lake, and another of Larry’s sons has a camper on another lake, so you can bet this hovercraft is going to be a family affair!

While learning to conduct a preflight inspection, Larry said even though he’d never been on a hovercraft before, he’d flown airplanes and had a “pretty good idea about how aerodynamics work," so he thought training would be fairly easy.

Before they launch the craft on the flooded Wabash River, Chris demonstrates to Larry the Neoteric HoverTrek’s patented reverse thrust system, which gives the craft the ability to spin, fly backwards and brake. “The brakes will be nice!” Larry observed.

Out on the river, Chris shows Larry the extreme boat-like floating stability of the hovercraft – it’s certainly much more stable than the weather!

At the conclusion of his training, Larry said, “I’ve read that hovercraft are similar to airplanes in some ways, but in many ways they’re not. It was a lot different than I thought it was going to be; they operate very differently and the training was really unique. I have a lot of things to think about at 3 o’clock in the morning when I do my best thinking!”

What would Larry say to someone who wanted to fly a hovercraft without training? “I think they’d better rearrange their thinking. Without training from someone who has experience, they can kiss their you-know-what goodbye!”

Now a fully-trained hovercraft pilot, Larry is ready to take his new craft back to North Dakota for some fun times ahead – hopefully in better weather!

See for yourself why a hovercraft is the perfect all-weather recreational vehicle …

Take a Test Flight

1 comment :

  1. There is a 700 page book, with 450 pictures called 'On a Cushion of Air', ( or and Kindle), which tells the story of Christopher Cockerell's discovery that heavy weights could be supported on a cushion of low pressure air, and the development of the hovercraft by those who were there, from the very early days through to the heyday of the giant 165-ton SRN.4, which crossed the English Channel starting in 1968 carrying 30 cars and 254 passengers at speeds in excess of 75 knots on a calm day. It was subsequently widened to carry 36 cars and 280 passengers with an A.U.W. of 200 tones and was later lengthened to an A.U.W of 325 tons and capable of carrying 55 cars and 424 passengers. The amazing point was that from 165 tons to 325 tons only 400 extra hp was required, although a bit of speed was sacrificed, proving conclusively that Christopher Cockerell's theory was sound.
    Sadly, for economic reasons, the service came to an end on 1st October 2000. In total 6 SR.4s were built and the two remaining ones are in the Hovercraft Museum at Lee-on-Solent. See