Carbon Fibre Integrated Hovercraft....no, not really the answer!

added by russ on May 28, 2015 at 10:23

Unfortunately, the days of cross channel 300 ton monster hovercraft are behind us, killed off by many factors - unavailability of engine servicing, increased fuel costs and finally, the end of duty free.

Nowadays, the Russian Navy ZUBR, and the US Marine LCAC's operate the world's largest hovercraft. Here in the UK, the Hovertravel AP1-88 flies the flag for the largest craft in the UK.

Down at the ‘other end’ of the scale, our original single seat ‘Snapper’ of 1998 now has a larger sibling in the shape of the Coastal-Pro, a 3-4 seat commercial craft which has been selling well to people who need a practical, safe and effective hovercraft for such uses as transport on frozen rivers, through tidal estuaries and over mudflats.

The biggest difference between the Coastal-Pro and our earlier hovercraft (the Marlin, Snapper and Mark One Coastal-Pro) is that it uses a separate lift system, which is controlled independently from the thrust system. Our smaller hovercraft use just one engine to give both lift and thrust, a system which works really well on smaller hovercraft but is redundant by the time the craft gets to 3 seats/4m or so. The Coastal-Pro is the first of these twin-engined hovercraft from BHC, but larger ones will follow.

 

As a result the Coastal-Pro can lift over 300kgs from a dead-start on water, and carry considerably more on land or over water without needing to stop. The earlier craft without he separate lift engine displayed some shortcomings in this area, which is why the  new Coastal-Pro was born. Quite simply, larger hovercraft don’t work with a single engine and fan.

Interestingly, one company has recently released an integrated 5m hovercraft built from Carbon Fibre which they claim is capable of seating (variously!) seven to nine people or an astonishing half-tone payload – from a water start, this is a hovercraft’s biggest challenge. Of course, none of the videos actually show it doing so with 7 people on board (just big cardboard boxes in the back full of what I wonder? Air?) If you have a desire to never hear again, take a look at a video of it in action (WARNING : HEARING DAMAGE VERY LIKELY!) VIDEO

The whole design concept of a 7 seat integrated hovercraft is simply wrong. It’s a fundamental design flaw akin to building a 400bhp three wheel Ferrari or an aeroplane with one wing. This particular example is powered by a 120bhp turbocharged engine – huge complexity and noise levels fit to burst eardrums (this, from our analysis is around 96dbA at 25m, loud even for a racinghovercraft!) A carbon fibre hull is space rocket technology stuff, sure. But in hovercraft use, it’s brittle and shatters quite easily, a more useful design would be to back it up with Kevlar (something we and many others have learned from racing hovercraft over the years of competition) – on its own, it’s a poor choice.

The problems can be seen quite clearly on the promo videos, the integrated design means very poor hover height, the hovercraft never truly hovers which means the skirt is dragging and will wear out in no time. Worst case, poor hovering can mean it will catch the ground travelling sideways and stop dead or flip over…ouch!

You cannot simply ‘’scale up’ small hovercraft and expect them to work as well – there has to be limits, and this one’s been crossed - and here's the result.

Meanwhile...put your fingers in your ears, turn down the volume on your PC and and play THIS VIDEO!

Take a look at this photo - wow! No words needed!

 

 

The bottom line is that despite being a much smaller hovercraft, our Coastal-Pro (all 65bhp of it) will outperform this 5m, 120bhp offering. It’s around 1/3rd of the noise level, three times as economical, carries just as much payload, is easier to drive, more reliable (seriously – a turbocharger and extensive electronics in a saltwater environment???) – oh, and much prettier! :-)

All those years of R&D, racing, cruising, commercial work and using our own craft in every conceivable environment have given The british Hovercraft Company unmatched experience in the design and production of real, working hovercraft. No bull, no wild figures, no opinion – we’re proud to say our hovercraft perform exactly as promised in our literature and on this website

By all means, try out other hovercraft brands – then come along to us for a demo, we’ll be happy to see you and demonstrate the advantages of a clear design philosophy.

For demonstrations, please call us on 01304 619820

 

 

Demonstrations this weekend in Liverpool.

added by emma on May 26, 2015 at 10:51

Venturing out of Kent, we're headed up for a play on the Mersey this weekend, a Hovercraft Club event, kindly hosted for the third year by the Liverpool Sailing Club  

Whilst we'll be off on a cruise or two, there will also be plenty of time to offer demonstrations to potential buyers - so do please get in touch if our 300 mile trip north makes things a little easier for you! You can email us : info@britishhovercraft.com or call 01304 619820

 

To show you exactly what it *wont* be like but hopefully to excite you to the idea - here's a photo of a Marlin taken ten years ago on a sunny beach in Melbourne, Australia. Smile

 

Yup, that really was a Marlin you saw on the 'Clarkson, Hammond & May Live' Show!

added by emma on May 23, 2015 at 07:26

Jeremy Clarkson likes hovercraft. In fact, interviewing Rupert Grint on Top Gear in 2010, he stated 'Hovercraft are THE most fun you can have with an engine!' Coming from a man who's driven every car worth driving on the planet...that's quite an accolade! He's featured hovers on Top Gear at least four times, so when the BBC got in touch and asked us to provide a Marlin for Jeremy to drive on the (now infamous!) 'Hovervan' episode in 2013, we were delighted to agree. During the filming, Jeremy blasted round a grassy field and said some really nice things about our hovercraft, and we spent a couple of days at the filming their crazy antics in the Hovervan.  All in all, great fun!

So, we were pretty excited when Jeremy got back in touch and asked us to provide another hovercraft for the brand new 'Clarkson, Hammond & May' show which opened last night in Belfast. Since the 2013 show, we've released a new Marlin, and in accordance with the wishes of the show organisers, it got rather 'blinged up' with full on LED lighting. Not enough for Jeremy however, the fireworks you see in the photos were pyrotechnics actually launched from the craft as he drove on to the sound of 'Eye of The Tiger!'

Now THAT'S an entrance!

Jeremy is a champion for British engineering and manufacturing, and we owe him a big thank you for this exciting, high profile opportunity for us to demonstrate one of our UK manufactured hovercraft in front of thousands of petrol heads. Of course, we were up early this morning to grab every newspaper from the corner shop and three daily's have pictures of his grand entrance in our Marlin hovercraft.

We'd already planned a limited edition model to mark the occasion, in same colours as the CH&M hovercraft with upgraded engine, upholstery and a graphics kit....but after seeing the Daily Star's headline, we think we'll call it...

'The BEAST'

The Beast is priced at just £9,950.00+VAT - Call us for more details!

 

 

 

Medway & Swale Boating Association Meeting

added by russ on March 19, 2015 at 07:26

On behalf of the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain, together with two other active local hovercrafters, we attended the MSBA meeting at the Kent Boat & Ski club at Cuxton last night.

As usual, it was an interesting meeting and the MSBA provides a powerful voice for river users to address issues that effect them. With representatives in the room from Medway Council, the police, RYA and various clubs and organisations, it is also a great chance to find out about proposed developments, works and strategies. For instance, the Medway, and likely the Swale, are to become MCZ's (Marine Conservation Zones) which is always a concern as granting this staus is often the 'thin end of a wedge' which may prevent sensible dedging for instance (obviously not a concern for a hovercrafter, but I like boats too!) There's some rumours about powerboat racing returning to the Medway, and we'll put our names forward to be part of the Medway River Festival in July. Last time we buzzed round for the crowds, we were a bit of a hit!

The Hovercraft Club of Great Britain organises around 8-10 cruises on the Medway, Swale and Thames each year. There's a representation on the MSBA by another hovercraft club, but the local rep doesn'w own a hovercraft or organise any events - so our advice is to join the HCGB - the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain (Which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year!) and contact us here at BHC to find out what's coming up on 'our patch' down here in the South East. Lots coming up, just get in touch to join in the fun!

 

HCGB : www.hovercraft.org.uk MSBA : www.msba.org.uk

Coastal-Pro Hovercraft off to Finland

added by russ on February 10, 2015 at 11:13
Just finished loading the 6th Coastal-Pro off the production line. This striking red and white example is on its way to our Finnish dealer RAF HOVERCRAFT www.rafhovercraft.fi and will be exhibited at an emergency services show in a few weeks time. Further refinements to the electronics of the Rampage 50bhp engine meant that this one produced even more thrust than previous ones. In fact, fan data seems to suggest that 50bhp may be a rather modest claim so in future we shall descibe the power figure as 'adequate!' Noise levels are very low at 74dbA at cruising speed, it floats with enormous stability do to the width and weight and the tough GRP/Kevlar hull is built ot take the knocks and bumps of a tough commercial and rescue role. To find out more, contact either Kari at RAF Hovercraft our ourselves. www.rafhovercraft.fi www.britishhovercraft.com

Hoverclub / HCGB Cruising Dates 2015.

added by emma on February 6, 2015 at 07:06

CRUISING DATES 2015!

All dates and locations are provisional, and weather dependent. You'll need to be an HCGB member to launch at these events (Just £27/year!) Swale launches carry a £10 launch fee and you'll be asked to sign a one-off disclaimer covering all events you attend.If you'd like to discuss additional events, by all means mail me.

If I don't have your email address and you wish to be kept up to date, please mail me at russ(at)britishhovercraft.com or call 01304 619820

 

February 21st - Lowest tide of the century! We're headed to the Thames for some Mudlarking (look it up!) by hovercraft. More mudlarking than cruising but a good pre-season shakedown!

March 14th - Swale/Medway/Thames LW 1130/HW 1800

April 25th - Probably Swale/Medway/Thames LW 1030/HW 1700

May 30th & 31st - Liverpool/River Mersey Cruise from Liverpool Sailing Club

July 11th - Swale/Medway/Thames LW 0730 /HW1400 (probably the overnight camping trip)

July 26th - Possible Dover Regatta demo race or alternative.

Wednesday August 19th - Thanet Coastal Cruise.

August 29-31st - Solent cruise, based at Gang Warily Race meeting.

More to follow into Autumn.

 

 

Quiet Hovercraft! Our Coastal-Pro Noise Test Results.

added by emma on January 26, 2015 at 05:52

Noise is the biggest challenge faced by hovercraft designers and builders. In the last year we've been conducting a significant project to develop new, more quiet hovercraft, and the Coastal-Pro is the first to benefit from the results.

Much of the credit for this work must go to Keith Oakley. Keith has been involved with hovercraft as a passionate enthusiast for a very long time and over the last few years has tested over 150 hovercraft for their noise signatures. Using the information gained from this, we've worked together to improve noise levels using his knowledge together with our experience and engineering facilities. Keith's work is hugely respected within the hovercraft community - what he wants to achieve is a greater acceptance for hovercraft in both commercial and recreational applications, and to have him working so closely with us to achieve this is a fabulous opportunity for us. Basically (without giving away commercial secrets!) there are about ten significant factors which are responsible for the noise. Some improvements are fairly straightforward and generally understood  such as bigger ducts and slower fans. But Keith's research has also identified some more subtle factors which when addressed as part of an overall design,  contribute significant reductions in overall noise levels.  

We knew the Coastal-Pro was good but we had only had a chance to run some rough tests. What we were keen to do was to thoroughly test it for 'flyby' noise - the most relevant test for a dynamic machine (as opposed to a static test) but had to wait for a calm day without wind to skew the results.

The outcome was extremely satisfying. After averaging three runs, maximum noise at full power measured at 25m was 78dbA. However, at cruising speed (approximately 20 knots) the noise was just 74dbA. This is way down on traditional hovercraft noise levels and we believe it is demonstrably the quietest commercially built hovercraft available anywhere in Europe. In real terms, if you're standing on a river bank and a Coastal-Pro passes by, the noise simply isn't unacceptable or offensive.

This is just the first application of the project results to our range of craft, and in some ways the easiest to apply. But our 'crusade' continues, and we promise more results in due course. Make sure you 'like' our Facebook page and you'll be the first to hear about them!

Commercial Regulations : MCA Meeting tomorrow!

added by emma on January 14, 2015 at 09:28

Big Day tomorrow! For those of you that have been following our work with the MCA on the HCoP, you'll understand why we're rather excited that the code is now to face the whole working group for - hopefully - the discussion which will finalise the code ready for implication. The code has been largely prepared by the HMA members, lead by Griffon Hoverwork and ourselves and is based on the MGN280 commercial workboat regulations. Like or loathe our current government, this has come about because industry regulation is now encouraged by government to be industry lead, which is exactly what the Hovercraft Code is. This means that the regulations contain a ton of common sense and can be clearly understood and implemented by those operating hovercraft for the first time.  

The MCA granted permission for the Ultralight Category hovercraft to commence commercial operations back in June 2014 and we've quickly seized the opportunity with the formation of Coastal Transit Services, which has been busy providing crew transfer and survey services since last year. However, the larger categories (Light : Up to 100kgs and Small : Up to 24m) have taken more work with particular emphasis on engine choices and propeller specifications.

So - tomorrow will be interesting - let's see what happens and we'll obviously update this page and our facebook page with updates as they happen.

Russ

 

Demonstration Day

added by emma on January 14, 2015 at 07:46

Demo Day

Want to try a hovercraft out?

We have a last-minute demo day this Friday for those that move quick. For those that like to plan things a little more, you have another opportunity on Saturday 24th January. Long range weather report looks pretty good with bright blue skies, so drop us a line or call to reserve your slot. We'll have a Snapper, Marlin and Coastal-Pro available for you to try and an 'on-the-day' insentive if you wish to take the plunge into hovercraft ownership.

Call us today on 01304 619820 or email us on info@britishhovercraft.com to book your demonstration

HOVERCRAFT OPERATIONS ON THE RIVER MERSEY

added by russ on December 18, 2014 at 12:06

Those of you that see the updates on our Facebook page may have noticed that we have been busy providing crew transfer services on the Mersey Gateway project, a £600m six-lane motorway bridge over the Mersey linking Widnes & Runcorn in Cheshire.

This has been a very significant job for us, as it’s the first time that a small hovercraft has been used commercially under the terms of the 2014 Hovercraft Code of Practice. The 2014 Coastal-Pro MACV is designed and built to comply with the code, and all correct certification for skippers and the hovercraft are correct. As you can imagine, our risk assessments, method statements and plans had to be right up to scratch with all relevant permissions gained from the MCA, port authourity etc

The work has certainly been tough! Our job is to transfer the engineers and welders to and from the various barges and work sites, and with the river at Widnes being so tidal, the craft must be able to operate over both water and sand/mudflats. The tidal bore can be quite something, with the tide rising in a little over two hours. Having said that, the mud bank doesn’t always cover at all, so that after a week drying due to neap tides, the mud becomes extremely sticky. On the flooding or ebbing tide, coming alongside the barges can be challenging, especially in the recent winds. Our hardcore skippers start at 6:30am, with first transfers in the dark at 7:00am. During our first week, the cold temperatures have meant that the MACV has literally torn itself free of the ice coating the steel slipway in the morning with an unnerving ripping noise. Early though it is, any sleepiness is gone in the first ten yards – it’s bitterly cold and dark, and the mudflats change literally tide by tide with gullies coming and going overnight. The skipper needs to be alert and aware of the changes in the terrain and a set of the superb 'Cree' LED lights seem almost powerless on the giant landscape.  

CLICK FOR VIDEO - NIGHTIME TRANSFER 

It’s certainly been an interesting period with a very steep learning curve. The MACV has performed absolutely faultlessly, proving to be exactly the right size – large enough for two or three crew, but small enough to be ‘handy’ amongst the barges and cranes – able to get into and out of some pretty tight spaces and through the gullies and able to deal with that ‘sticky’ mud. We've been told that at leats one much heavier commercial/rescue hovercraft has become thoroughly stuck when attempting to operate in this area of the Mersey. Our lighter craft and segmented skirt allows us a workaround and the separate lift system is absolutely essential for this work.   

The mud rescue on site is being provided by a 'Sealegs' which if you've not seen one before is a 6m RIB with a hydraulically driven, three wheel system. This allows it to travel across the land as well as water. It's been interesting to compare the two vehicles - the Sealegs certainly offers an advantage in fast flowing tides (reverse is handy, a pointy bow and no skirt to drag in the water when not moving is a luxury) but it's is desperately slow on land and can only run for around half an hour before needing to cool down. On a bumpy day, give me the RIB every time, but crossing the mudflats from one side of the river to the other takes some twenty minutes - by contrast the MACV takes less than four! It's outboard has also proved vulnerable to silt in the shallow water conditions and it can get stuck if the mud is too soft - the wheels do have limits and cause a lot of damage to the littoral substrate that hovercraft don't. Having said that, it's been on the job for some months and is doing a demanding job in an environment I can’t believe it was actually designed for.

Our skippers (myself included) have learned a lot about skippering and driving the MACV in this role. We've managed to bend a few bits that we didn’t think could be bent, we've found components  that have frozen up on cold mornings, we've learned to deal with 'that' mud and certainly discovered the limits of the craft. We're pretty sure that every welder on site weighs a minimum of 100kgs, and every part of the MACV has been jumped or stepped on - so far with no damage which is rather gratifying!

VIDEO - DAYTIME FROM BARGE TO SHORE

So, as we end the year, we'll be bringing the MACV back from Liverpool for some love and attention and will be back in the new year to continue operations until Spring 2015, when we move to another, similar job in the North East of England. Exciting times!

Our thanks must go to the team at the MCA who have allowed small hovercraft to operate in this role, with the adoption of the Ultralight category of the Hovercraft Code of Practice 2014, Peel Ports for quickly assessing the viability and safety of our operations, and our duty skippers Nelson & Dave for their hard work in tough conditions.

 

Evening on the River mersey

 

Early morning, Sealegs and the MACV together.

 

One of our other jobs - providing a solid, stable base for survey equipment on dangerous mudflats.

 


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