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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.


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