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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:


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