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30 November 2014

Hovercraft: The right vehicle for the job – or not?

Hovercraft pilot training – that comes after you buy a hovercraft, right? Not always. In fact, particularly with commercial hovercraft, it’s often just the opposite. Businesses across the world come to Hovercraft Training Centers to determine if a hovercraft could expand their services and boost their bottom line … and also to protect their bottom line by letting them ‘fly before they buy.’

That’s what brought Ed Savage to HTC. Savage is a Manager at Pella, Iowa-based Vermeer Corporation – a manufacturer of construction, mining, utility, environmental and agricultural equipment.

Savage explained why he took an HTC training course: “I’m part of a research & development team at Vermeer and we’re working with a customer on a project where there needs to be as little surface damage as possible. So we’re trying to find the best vehicle for that, and I’m here to see if a hovercraft is the best way to go. None of us has any experience with hovercraft, so we thought it was best to do the training. Since it only takes a day, it’s worth the time and expense. My goal is to learn how to operate it without destroying something, and to make it successful on this project. It’s going to be a challenge.

Vermeer’s engineers, along with HTC Senior Instructor/Neoteric Hovercraft President Chris Fitzgerald agreed that the customer’s project would be a challenge for any vehicle, including hovercraft. The project involves traveling over delicate peat bogs in Minnesota, and state and federal regulations mandate that these cannot be damaged or disturbed. Minnesota has more peatlands than any other state except Alaska, and its peat industry adds more than $10 million annually to its economy.

Since Savage said, “There’s a 99 percent we’ll never be on water with the hovercraft,” HTC customized the training to the potential use, as always, and Savage’s flight training was conducted entirely on land …
After a morning of classroom training to learn how hovercraft work,
Ed Savage prepares for hands-on pilot training outside HTC headquarters. 
Via wireless headsets, instructor Chris Fitzgerald provides guidance and feedback
as Ed Savage undergoes an afternoon of flight training.
Although the Indiana terrain at HTC in this next photo may look a bit like a peat bog, the final determination as to whether or not a hovercraft would work for Vermeer Corp. would later be made via flight over actual peatlands in Minnesota …
After his day of  training, Ed Savage (right) receives his Hovercraft Pilot Certification
from HTC Senior Instructor Chris Fitzgerald.
Savage described his training course: “It’s a neat feeling to just start floating up like that. It was a little more difficult to catch onto than I thought it would be. You watch videos of hovercraft and think, ‘Oh, that looks simple,’ but then you do it yourself and see that training is definitely a necessity.

The final result of Vermeer Corporation’s feasibility study? When the hovercraft was tested on the peat bogs in Minnesota, it was decided that the engineers and Chris Fitzgerald were correct – this was a rare instance where the job was not one for a hovercraft.

The bottom line? A hovercraft can be a valuable business asset – or it could turn out to be an unnecessary expenditure. There’s only one sure way to find out …

Fly before you buy:

21 November 2014

An Uncommonly Practical but Fun Holiday Gift: Hovercraft Flight

No matter what your occupation, it’s that time of year when you start thinking about the holidays, and about what gifts you’d like to give – or receive! Recently Clay Russell of Richmond, Kentucky, gave himself an uncommonly practical gift that you might want to give someone on your Christmas shopping list – or add to your own “wish list”.

Clay owns a security systems company in Richmond, and has been a volunteer first responder for most of his life. “I joined the fire department when I was just 15 years old, and started driving the truck when I was 21,” he said. “I got out of firefighting some time ago, but I still volunteer with the rescue squad. I’m a little older now, and not as active as I’d like to be. I pretty much work all the time, trying to build up that retirement fund, so I don't have a lot of hobbies.

Sound familiar? Maybe, like Clay, you or someone on your holiday shopping list needs a break! He decided to mix business with pleasure by taking a Flight Training Course at Hovercraft Training Centers. “I haven’t really had a vacation in a long time by myself, and I needed a diversion,” he laughed. “I guess that’s a big reason I’m here today. But all my diversions have some sort of either business or altruistic motives; I can’t just go recreate by myself. I needed a reason, so I picked this.
Clay Russell (left) receives his Hovercraft Pilot Certification from HTC Senior Flight Instructor Chris Fitzgerald.
Everyone would agree that learning to fly a hovercraft is fun, but how do business and altruism fit into Clay’s motives? “What I need to do today is become as familiar as I can with a hovercraft and take this information back to my department – and to my family – and then convince them to either purchase one or help me purchase one,” he explained. “If we buy a hovercraft, I would own it personally and my department could use it for rescue purposes. After a few years, when I retire, maybe I’ll take it to Florida and start a tourism business, I don’t know. Hopefully I can retire with it and have fun!”

Clay describes why his department needs a hovercraft: “The lakes in our area partially freeze over in the winter, then people walk out onto the ice and, of course, they end up needing to be rescued. And in the summer, we have some swiftwater in the area. The Kentucky River, albeit not swiftwater, has dams, so there’s also choppy water we deal with. We normally use a Zodiac for rescue, but it’s very hard to operate. We need something that will stay stationary in moving water.

And a hovercraft comes naturally to his family’s outdoor lifestyle. “I do rock climb and hike a little bit, with my 8-year-old daughter. My whole family’s kind of outdoorsy,” Clay said. “And not only is a hovercraft an outdoor vehicle, it’s more technical. As a kind of amateur mechanical engineer, it’s very interesting to see how they work. And they’re not common; I’m into the uncommon things in life.

Clay also came to Hovercraft Training Centers because we train exclusively on Neoteric hovercraft. “I’ve known about hovercraft for years, and I’ve researched every brand out there. I was most impressed by the Neoteric HoverTrek's reverse thrust. So that’s another reason why I’m here.”
With Senior Flight Instructor Chris Fitzgerald providing guidance,
Clay Russell experiences the thrill of flying a hovercraft for the first time.
Who in your life needs a break? Maybe someone who has considered a hovercraft for work or play and would love to do a feasibility study that’s actually fun? (If this describes you, start hinting now!) Shirts and ties have their place, but there’s no better stocking stuffer than the gift of hovercraft flight. And it lets you completely avoid the Black Friday rush!

The most unique holiday gift you can give – or receive … 

19 November 2014

Self-taught Rescue Hovercraft Pilot Takes Flight Training Course

Did you know that temperatures were below freezing this week in 50 U.S. states? At Hovercraft Training Centers, we train in all weather conditions but - especially if you live on the East Coast and are buried in snow - this seems like a good time for you to enjoy some photos of flight training in warm sunshine!

HTC is not only an all-weather hovercraft flight school, we’re also an all-levels-of-experience training center - we train pilots who have been flying hovercraft for years. Scott Hanseth, a first responder with George Larson Marine Rescue in Conway, Washington, has been flying rescue hovercraft for a couple of decades. Yet, shortly before we were hit with an early winter, Scott came to HTC to take a pilot training course. He explains why:

We’ve been running SCAT hovercraft for 15 to 20 years. We trained ourselves. Some guys pick it up and some guys drive it and say, ‘Not for me.’ It took me awhile to learn how to get comfortable. I want to learn new techniques I can take back to my guys and train them. And I’m interested in learning more about maintenance,” Scott said.
Scott Hanseth (left) receives his Hovercraft Pilot Certification from HTC Senior Flight Instructor Chris Fitzgerald.
Last year, George Larson Marine Rescue bought a Neoteric rescue hovercraft for Scott to operate, so he was pleased that HTC trains exclusively on the Neoteric HoverTrek™. “I got tired of dealing with old worn-out machines. We had an opportunity to buy our own, so I researched different brands for a long time and decided on Neoteric,” he said, “When our interstate bridge collapsed, I got to see Snohomish County’s Neoteric craft in operation. Its maneuverability sold me on it.

George Larson Marine Rescue’s Neoteric Rescue HoverTrek™
Scott described why maneuverability is an important feature. “We rescue a lot of duck hunters. We take care of the lower Skagit River where it hits saltwater. The tide fluctuates 8 to 12 feet a day, twice a day, so duck hunters get lost or the tide goes out and they can’t get back in, so we go get them.”

Although it didn’t exactly simulate a 12-foot tidal fluctuation, the Wabash River was flooded on the day that Scott underwent his HTC flight training …

And, as always, part of Scott’s pilot training included maneuvering the hovercraft in and out of places other vehicles have difficulty reaching …

As an experienced rescue hovercraft pilot, did Scott Hanseth learn anything new during his training course? “It was great - I learned a lot!” he said. “I had training a long time ago, but it wasn’t as structured like this was. There’s a quote in your Training Manual about a hovercraft being like a bar of soap with a motor on it … that’s true. If somebody starts flying without training, they’re likely to have a bad experience. Get some training, have a professional teach you. Don’t just wing it.

Scott’s training course also reaffirmed his department’s decision to buy a Neoteric hovercraft. “The Neoteric handles completely differently than the SCAT. In the SCAT, you always have to shift your weight to keep it level and you have to lean to turn. With the Neoteric’s reverse thrust buckets, you just sit there. And on a SCAT, if you go around a corner the outside edge would just automatically go down. They would plow in, religiously, and I’ve seen guys crash into things with them. With the Neoteric, you don’t have to worry about it, and that’s the big difference. It’s a lot more stable.

An email from Scott just a few days ago confirmed even more strongly that George Larson Marine Rescue’s decisions about pilot training and hovercraft brand were the right ones. He wrote …

We used our new hovercraft on its first real incident last night and I was extremely pleased with how it performed. We had to go get two hunters that were stranded in Skagit Bay when the tide went out on them. It was dark, 26 degrees, and the hovercraft operated perfectly. There were no issues with the engine in the freezing conditions and the lights, especially the two we added to the fan shroud, were fantastic. The hovercraft was able to handle myself and the two hunters without trouble. Without a doubt, the Neoteric hovercraft is far superior to the SCAT hovercraft we have run in the past.

First responders: Don't just wing it ...
See how a Hovercraft Pilot Training Course could help you save lives.

18 November 2014

Buy a hovercraft without training first? “Bad idea!” says airline pilot.

Bill Holzgrove knows a thing or two about flying – he was an airline pilot for 30 years. And he grew up with airplanes. “My dad was a crop duster, so I knew about airplanes,” he explained, “But I wanted nothing to do with them until I was about 25-26 years old. Then I discovered flying on my own, and I got into it, hook, line and sinker!

When Bill came to Hovercraft Training Centers in August, the closest he’d come to flying a hovercraft was watching YouTube videos. Why did he choose HTC? A big reason was that we train exclusively on Neoteric hovercraft. “I’ve watched so many videos and I’ve been researching for several months, so I’ve done my homework,” he said. “I checked other companies, other products, but I kept going back to the Neoteric craft - the reverse thrust buckets, that makes the difference.”
Bill Holzgrove (left) accepts his Hovercraft Pilot Certification
from HTC Senior Flight Instructor Chris Fitzgerald.
And why would a former airline pilot want a hovercraft? “I have the best job in the world – I’m retired, so every day is Saturday!” he said, “Originally I was considering an airboat, but it’s too tall for the bridges on the river where I live, but a hovercraft isn’t as tall, so it’ll go under them with no problem. And I live in Minnesota, so there are lakes everywhere.

A hovercraft will also give Bill year-round access to Minnesota’s waterways; he said the primary surface he’ll be hovering on will be ice. “In the spring and fall, when the water’s going through the transition, I’ll be the only guy out there. And then there’s the winter time on the lakes – looking forward to that!

Bill launched on his training day with great enthusiasm. “I want to leave here with a captain rating!” he said. “I want to see what a hovercraft can do. As opposed to leaving here knowing what little bit is possible, I expect you guys to show me envelope to see all I can do!”

With Senior Flight Instructor Chris Fitzgerald in the pilot’s seat, Bill Holzgrove
begins his pilot training session – and his first flight in a hovercraft.
Former airline pilot Bill Holzgrove flies a hovercraft for the first time,
with HTC Instructor Chris Fitzgerald providing guidance and feedback.
Bill finished his training day with even more enthusiasm. “It was great! I learned a lot, stumbled a lot, learned from mistakes. That’s part of the learning process: do something wrong, then see what’s right. Every time Chris grabbed the controls, the craft just went where he wanted it to go, then I stumbled through my attempts at it. We went to places I never would have attempted on day one!

Then the airline pilot in him added, “It’s a matter of experience. I’m guessing Chris would be unable to land a DC-10 with 305 people on board in a thunderstorm without being able to see the runway!

At the end of the day, Bill decided a hovercraft was just what he needed. He even decided to assemble it himself, from a Neoteric Partially-Assembled Hovercraft Kit. Here it is, nearing completion at the Neoteric factory …

After this experienced airline pilot spent a day at HTC learning to fly a hovercraft, what were Bill Holzgrove's words of advice to someone who wants to buy a hovercraft without undergoing training first? “Bad idea!” he said, “Even if you have some flying background.”

Experience what you can do with a hovercraft ...

17 November 2014

HTC Grad Using Hovercraft for Unexploded Ordnance Detection

Hovercraft Training Centers graduate Richard Funk, Senior Geophysicist with Tetra Tech, Inc., will use a customized Neoteric commercial hovercraft for detection of MEC/UXO (Munitions & Explosives of Concern/Unexploded Ordnance) over shallow coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea. And it all began with a training course as a feasibility study at HTC!

Read the full story below, recently published in the Environmental & Engineering Geophysical Society magazine, FastTIMES ...

Tetra Tech MEC/UXO Detection System Deploys via Neoteric Hovercraft

Tetra Tech, Inc., in collaboration with Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc., has produced a new environmentally-sensitive munitions detection system capable of accessing shallow areas where no other watercraft is able to travel and where sensitive habitat is only inches beneath the water’s surface. Tetra Tech’s in-house developed TEMA (Towed Electromagnetic Array) attaches to the company’s customized Neoteric hovercraft to permit MEC/UXO detection in areas previously accessible only by more expensive, less sensitive aircraft-based systems.

Richard Funk, Senior Geophysicist with Tetra Tech’s Marine Mapping Group, describes the TEMA’s unique features: “Unlike a magnetometer, the TEMA is an active sensor that can detect all metals, ferrous and non-ferrous. Its detectors are focused, so they’re not affected by nearby metal structures such as piers, bulkheads and bridges. Data from all devices – multiple high-power EM sensors, altimeters, positioning sensors and video/still cameras – is recorded in real time. The 3-meter swath coverage and the use of high-power EM units increases survey power, with lower operational costs and better detection capabilities.”
In an early prototype development model Neoteric hovercraft, the TEMA system is
tested and evaluated to determine the optimal pivoting and pushing system.
Tetra Tech has researched the use of hovercraft for MEC/UXO survey for many years, particularly for use in difficult areas for data collection, such as shorelines and surf zones. “Our goal is to push it to the next level so we can go where other people can’t go,” Funk says, “A hovercraft takes you places you can’t go with conventional craft, places that are too shallow for a boat, places you can’t walk.”

Tetra Tech selected Neoteric to manufacture their hovercraft because “Neoteric’s HoverTrek™ outmaneuvers other hovercraft on the market, and our projects demand that increased control,” said Funk. “Additionally, Neoteric has decades of experience custom-manufacturing their hovercraft to client specifications, and we were impressed by the company’s mandate that repeated testing be performed throughout the customization of our hovercraft.” The craft’s customizations include mounting points for the TEMA sensor array, mounts for the electronics modules, mounts for the pilot’s display and data collectors’ displays, a table for data collectors, TEMA battery mounts, GPS antenna mounts, and a bimini top.
Tetra Tech’s fully customized Neoteric HoverTrek™ is prepared
for its final over-water testing.
The unusual maneuverability of the Neoteric hovercraft is attained through a patented fly-by-wire reverse thrust system, which makes it the only hovercraft on the market with effective brakes. As Neoteric President Chris Fitzgerald explains, “Our reverse thrust system surpasses jet aircraft in efficiency; while most aircraft deliver an average of 18 percent thrust in reverse, the HoverTrek™ delivers 60 percent. Unlike other hovercraft, the HoverTrek™ can fly backward, spin, and hover over ice and on swift water.”

Tetra Tech will deploy its new hovercraft-based munitions detection system in early 2015 to conduct Phase 2 of an ongoing MEC/UXO remedial investigation and feasibility study at a Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) for Formerly Used Defense sites (FUDS) area in the Caribbean. The site was an impact range for aerial bombs and rockets, missiles, mortars and naval projectiles from 1903 until 1975.

The entire site comprises 1,030 acres; the area to be surveyed with the TEMA-equipped Neoteric hovercraft is more than 200 acres of shallow coral reefs with listed and protected corals. This area was originally excluded from the survey due to the potential for damaging the coral. By using the Neoteric HoverTrek™, which hovers nine inches above the surface of the water, Tetra Tech can now complete the survey with confidence that the coral reefs are in no danger of harm.

The pairing of the TEMA system with the Neoteric hovercraft’s low environmental footprint - less than 1/30th that of a human foot – is an excellent example of how the perfect vehicle for the job can also be the perfect vehicle for the environment, allowing personnel to work safely and efficiently while protecting sensitive habitat.

About Tetra Tech:
Founded in 1966, Tetra Tech is a consulting, engineering, construction management and technical services firm with 14,000 employees and 330 offices worldwide. Based in Pasadena, California, Tetra Tech has decades of experience with MEC/UXO detection and remediation for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and commercial clients.

About Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc.:
Founded in 1960 and based in Terre Haute, Indiana, Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc. is the world’s original light hovercraft manufacturer. The Neoteric HoverTrek™, the only hovercraft in the industry with effective brakes, is utilized in commercial, rescue, recreational and military operations in more than 50 countries.

08 November 2014

Albuquerque Police Officer Learns to Train Hovercraft Pilots

Even though police officer Andy Montoya has been flying the Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Department’s Neoteric hovercraft for 12 years, he recently enrolled in a week-long Master Training course at Hovercraft Training Centers.

“I’m somewhat self-taught and fairly confident in the techniques that I use, but I want to learn how to do much more, go through more rescue scenarios and learn more about maintenance,” Montoya explained. “And since I hope to retire in a few years, I want to get certified to train others to fly the hovercraft and take my place.”  
Andy Montoya (left) receives his Master Hovercraft Pilot Certification
from HTC Senior Flight Instructor Chris Fitzgerald.
The rescue hovercraft Montoya flies was built by the Albuquerque Police Department in 2002 from a Neoteric Partially-Assembled Hovercraft Kit, and it has definitely proven its worth. “This hovercraft is just an amazing piece of equipment,” Montoya said. “We’ve used it for body recoveries, evidence searches, and missing persons searches on the Rio Grande River. We’ve used it for Presidential visits; we take the ATF or Secret Service out to search the bottoms of bridges for explosives.”

One of the hovercraft’s most publicized activities is its role in the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest ballooning event and reportedly the most photographed event of any kind in the world ...

The craft is vital in monitoring the ‘Splash-'N-Dash’, where balloonists touch their baskets to the surface of the Rio Grande, then take off again. If a balloon runs low on fuel, or becomes disabled in the trees and brush, the hovercraft is used to transport the disassembled balloon to a safe extraction point since most of the river isn’t accessible by other vehicles. Prior to the use of the hovercraft, helicopters were required to extract stranded balloons - at great expense to the pilots ...

When a rescue vehicle is used this extensively, it’s easy to see why Montoya wanted to hone his skills. “Professional training is the absolute way to go, because safety is paramount for a police department,” he said. “And learning how to train others to pilot the craft? If you don’t go to the professional to get certified in that, you’re just wasting your time. You’re not going to learn proper techniques, then you teach others substandard techniques and it creates a domino effect – a dangerous situation for everyone down the road. Small mistakes compound very quickly. Coming here makes it safer for everybody down the line.

During his week of Master Training, Montoya definitely had the opportunity to work with professionals. Besides Neoteric President/Senior Flight Instructor Chris Fitzgerald and Flight Instructor Steve Stafford, he was also instructed by HTC-trained Mark Ellis and his highly experienced first responders from the Hazleton Fire Department ...

From the left: Hazleton firefighters Tom Shoemaker, Mark Ellis and Rachel Hyneman;
Senior Flight Instructor Chris Fitzgerald and Flight Instructor Steve Stafford.
The crew spent time in Mt. Carmel, IL where the White and Wabash Rivers conjoin and drain into the Ohio and conditions are ideal for practicing rescue techniques on rough water. In this video clip, Montoya uses the HTC Neoteric training hovercraft’s reverse thrust to maneuver next to a decoy victim …

In this next clip, Montoya practices flying the craft over obstacles. As Hazleton firefighter Mark Ellis says about the Neoteric hovercraft, “It can go right over a log, rocky shallow waters, sand, mud – you name it.

After intensive rescue practice at Mt. Carmel, the crew prepared for night rescue operations on the river with night vision scopes, but a severe lightning storm, lasting several hours, forced them to abandon this usual component of Master Training.

Next, the crew returned to HTC headquarters in Terre Haute for Montoya to focus on becoming a hovercraft trainer …
Andy Montoya begins his first session as flight instructor with pilot trainee Heather Stafford.
Heather Stafford takes the controls of the hovercraft on the Wabash River
while Andy Montoya provides guidance and suggestions.
At the close of a week of intense training at HTC after flying hovercraft for 12 years, what was Andy Montoya’s reaction? “I’m going home with a whole new confidence. I have a new set of tools and a new set of skills that I could never have gotten anywhere else but here,” he said. “And I have a new respect for what this hovercraft can do – it can do twice what I thought it could do. I can get into places that, before I came here, I never thought I would even try to get into!”

His conclusion? “This has been the best training I’ve ever gone through – and I’ve been through a lot of training classes in 18 years of police work. It’s going to be a huge help, not only for my future on the hovercraft, but for those I’m able to train now.


02 November 2014

Neoteric Hovercraft Considered "A Hidden Treasure"

In use for decades by hovercraft pilots throughout the world, the powerful and highly maneuverable Neoteric Hovertrek™ is the training tool of choice for Hovercraft Training Centers. There is no better craft for providing the operation and maintenance training necessary to become a Certified Hovercraft Pilot.

Watch this NBC-2 TV news feature for an inside look to learn more about why the Neoteric Hovertrek™ flies above the rest and is considered "a hidden treasure" ...