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 ...