Hovercraft, The Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) & CE Marks

added by russ on November 3, 2015 at 10:25

We often get asked whether our hovercraft are 'CE' marked or not – the answer isn't quite straightforward, read on to find out.

Background

In the EU, marine vessels sold new by a manufacturer for recreational or pleasure purposes have to conform with Directive 94/25/EC, known as the Recreational Craft Directive, or RCD. This directive sets out the minimum technical and environmental standards for marine vehicles between 2.5m and 24m, ensuring they are 'suitable' for sale within the EU. The RCD was amended in 2003 by Directive 2003/44/EC which brought personal watercraft (ie Jet bikes/Jet skis) into the RCD. The directive also includes marine engines and some components. From January 2016, a new Directive, 2013/53/EU, replaces the current legislation but is basically the same and is aimed at reducing emissions.

 Exclusions

 Below is a list of vessels excluded from the RCD (taken from the RCD text.)

 craft intended solely for racing, including rowing racing boats and training rowing boats labelled as such by the manufacturer; or

 canoe and kayak, gondola or pedalo; or

 sailing surfboard; or

 powered surfboard or other similar powered craft

 original, and individual replica of a historical craft designed before 1950, built predominantly with the original materials and labelled as such by the manufacturer; or

 experimental craft, provided it is not subsequently placed on the Community market; or

 craft built for own use, provided it is not subsequently placed on the Community market during a period of five years; or

 craft specifically intended to be crewed and to carry passengers for commercial purposes, regardless of the number of passengers or

 submersible; or

 air cushion vehicle; or

 hydrofoil.

See it down there second from the bottom? Hovercraft are air-cushion vehicles (ACV.) So, in short – neither we, nor any other manufacturer can CE mark our hovercraft under the RCD, as ACV's are not eligible. Having checked the forthcoming legislation, we can confirm that they remain excluded from the new 2013/53/EU directive as well.

 Options

Two years back, BHC approached the European authorities and opened a dialogue aimed at either including ACV's or allowing us to voluntarily claim compliance and plate our craft accordingly. However, the ACV market is too small to interest Europe and we were refused. So, we looked into other directives, the only one of which seemed at all relevant was the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. Again, following extensive discussions, the answer was a 'no.'

We lobbied the EU to include ACV's in the new legislation due to the growing market – but as stated above, ACV's remain excluded.

 So where does that leave us?

A number of boat builders have told us that we're lucky that we do not have to comply with the RCD and the inevitable administration that goes with it. However, our ambition for the hovercraft industry is such that we're looking at the big picture and the long term growth of both the industry and our own business. We've certainly lost a few sales over the years due to the fact we cannot claim compliance with the RCD, but generally this has been due to the misunderstanding that the craft should be compliant.

However, with very few exceptions, and in all the main areas of safety, our craft do comply with the standards of the RCD. The only area we may struggle is with the stipulated noise levels, marginal on the Snapper & Marlin but the Coastal-Pro is comfortably within limits.

So what's that CE plate I see on the dashboard then? 

Although – as established – we cannot claim compliance with the RCD, ACV's do still need to comply with the standards of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive 2004/108/EC. This directive basically confirms that a product sold within the EU is not causing excessive electromagnetic interference, nor is effected by the same. So, back in 2013, we put our craft through the necessary tests and compiled a conformance file. Following a meeting with Kent Trading Standards, we started to affix a compliance plate to all our craft.

Are BHC craft built to a standard? 

Of course! Back in 2012, we approached the MCA to introduce a set of standards for small hovercraft. Initially rebuffed, we eventually got our way, and together with Griffon Hoverwork of Southampton, we established a manufacturers association and got the MCA to the table to start work on the 'Hovercraft Code of Practice.' Three years, many hours, miles and meetings later and the code is due to be introduced anytime soon (it's currently going through public consultation) and sets out standards for small craft up to 24m in length. It's our fervent hope that the legislation will be adopted by other countries in due course.

All our craft are built to the standards of the HcoP and marked accordingly alongside the conformity statement for 2004/108/EC and this – in truth – is a more relevant build standard than the generic RCD could hope to provide. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, this document will explain what is possible, why hovercraft cannot be CE Marked, what standards BHC craft meet and what we've done to establish the build quality of our products.To the best of our knowledge, BHC manufacture the only hovercraft that conform to any formal standards - at least nobody else claims compliance with the HcoP or 2004/108/EC. We were the company that started the ball rolling to introduce the HcoP, we've discussed voluntary inclusion into the RCD , explored options and as such, we believe our products conform with all existing legislation and exceed the industry standards of the HcoP. 

If you need to know more, do please call us.

Sample Plate

 

 

Build a Hovercraft - Snapper & Marlin Kits in time for Christmas!

added by russ on November 13, 2014 at 06:16

BUILD YOUR OWN HOVERCRAFT!

 

Lots of people enquire to us about building their own hovercraft - or call us for advice and parts when they hit snags building one from plans. Unfortunately, most of the plans and kits available to build your own craft fall well short of providing the first time builder with any realistic chance of assembling a decent, working, attractive craft.

 

Many of the plans available are poorly written and based on outdated 1970’s designs. They usually rely on a very simple, flat wooden hull  which is heavy, porous, ugly and expensive. They often feature a nasty little, two stroke motorbike engines and worse… a bag skirt!  They have no freeboard or flotation and whilst 90% are never finished in any case, those that are completed often work poorly – and almost none produce a genuinely usable recreational craft.

 

Many are never finished and end up on ebay....another “unfinished project, just needs.......” etc. This is largely because many parts need to be sourced, salvaged or made - many are difficult to find or expensive to buy and this leads to a lot of frustration and a loss of motivation to see the project through.

 

So what are the other options?

 

Buy a used craft. Certainly an option but they’re often battered, scruffy looking and in need of restoration. Many are inland racing craft and unusable (or even dangerous) for cruising and recreational use in a salt-water environment. Very few used cruising craft come up for sale which also means prices are high.

 

Buy a new commercially manufactured craft. The perfect solution if funds allow or you’re not the type of person who looks at things and thinks...”How does that work?” But obviously, a manufactured craft costs a reasonable amount of money and may not offer the 'Caterham Cars' thrill of being able to say "I built that!"

 

The third option - 'Flying Fish' Kits

 

For some years now, the British Hovercraft Company has supplied Pro-Build Component sets to two overseas manufacturers who produce the Flying Fish range under licence. And, in response to the almost constant enquiries we receive to supply parts, kits, hulls and even plans to home builders, we chose 2014 to launch or component sets into the retail market.

 

These aren’t just kits; our comprehensive pro-build packages are designed to be quick and fun to build. All the parts you need are supplied ready to assemble, not requiring any donor vehicle, fabrication or any special skills. And we mean everything - down to the last nut and bolt!

 

Building your own hovercraft undoubtedly adds some satisfaction to the finished product - we should know, we build two a week and they still thrill us! Flying Fish Kits offer two huge advantages over building from plan or a partial kit.

 

They work! The Marlin II and Snapper hovercraft have been sold in substantial numbers, and are almost the 'industry standard' for personal hovercraft (Hovercraft Club cruises are usually attended by 80-90% Marlins) so you can be sure you'll be building a professional looking craft that will perform as it should and will 'wow' everyone who sees it. It will work, you’ll have amazing fun with it and it’ll be safe. Building from a plan just isn't a 'sure thing'  - it really doesn’t guarantee that you'll end up with a safe and effective hovercraft -whereas building from a proven component set does.

 

When/if you come to sell your hovercraft, it’ll be worth a good price - you have a fully working, professional looking craft that people will genuinely want to buy. It has a greta reputation (Flying Fish' craft are pretty much the industry standard). Take a look on ebay for instance, there's probably a Marlin or Snapper on there for sale, and they always fetch decent money. Build it well, look after it and your hovercraft has real value. Plywood/aluminium hovercraft built from plans and kits almost never fetch any money as the hull material makes them look quite ugly and crude.

 

Which Component Set Should You Choose?

Snapper

Small but enormous fun - the Snapper is the hovercraft of choice at most UK driving events businesses because it's incredibly easy to drive (both adults and kids) and offers very good performance. It will carry two adults on land but is limited to approx 100kgs on water. It's powered by a Vanguard 23bhp engine, so it's quiet, reliable and economical. It is incredibly manoeuvrable, it must be the easiest hovercraft in the world to drive so it's great to share with the kids. It' suitability extends to an uncontrolled environment in calm conditions -  many owners venture into coastal areas every weekend and the component set includes stainless steel fittings for salt water use. You can even race it in Hovercraft Club events!

 

Marlin II

The  Marlin II was launched in 2010 and is a longer version of the Snapper with a higher seating position (you sit in the Marlin, kneel in the Snapper) larger screen, 35bhp engine and improved performance - particularly in a marine environment. Overall, it's best described as a ‘sports-cruiser’ and really looks the part! See our website for lots of details and photos.

 

What's included in the set?

 

Everything! All parts are 'straight off the shelf' - ie they're exactly the same components that we use in production of our own craft.

Complete set of fibreglass parts, trimmed.

Complete Fibreglass hull. Top and bottom decks bonded together.Buoyancy foam and engine mounting timber installed.920mm duct - inner and outer mouldings (inner fitted to hull)Rudders & Flow straighteners.23bhp (Snapper) or 35bhp Briggs & Stratton (Marlin) engine, boxed.Built in fuel tank with filler fitting (Marlin) or 12l outboard tank (Snapper)Seat cover (not upholstered)Screen.Belt cover and rear coneSteering cable installed  

Fan frame.

Alloy engine mounting plates.

Fan blades and hubs, with bearings.

Guard, guard saddles.

Stainless Steel Top & Bottom pulleys, taper lock.

Platinum Spec Drive Belt

Stainless steel Exhaust and downpipes.

Fuel line/filter and primer bulb

Steering kit - handlebars, uprights, stock, mount, grips.

Skirt Material and template (finished segments available at extra cost)

Bilge pump & piping.

Throttle Cable & Lever

Wiring loom & Toggle Switches

Hatch Covers

Skirt fixing cable and clamps (lower)

Titanfast skirt fixing (upper)

Mooring cleats

Skirt fix top clips

Sikaflex, peeler rivets.

Complete nut and bolt set.

Keel strips

Aluminium edging

 Hull colour

 White with your choice of red or blue trim/secondary colour.

 Other colours available at an additional cost of £250.00 (hull) and £150.00 (secondary)

 Other options include

Lights (beacons/navigation lights/headlights)

Marlin Screen with Snapper purchase.

One man/one minute trailer.

'Marinised' or upgraded engine.

Skirt segments in place of material.

Teak effect flooring.

Coloured blades.

 

Production Time : Approximately two weeks.

Build Time : Approximately 2 Weeks/50 hours,.

Build Guide : Video

Cost :   Snapper £5,000.00+VAT

            Marlin £6,250.00+VAT

For more details, contact info@britishhovercraft.com or call us on 0044(0)1304619820

 

The Medway & Swale Boating Association (MSBA) Meeting at Kent Boat & Ski Club

added by russ on September 3, 2014 at 09:10

 

 

It's fair to say I live and breathe hovercraft! Apart from running Flying Fish alongside my wife Emma, I'm also secretary of Hovercraft Manufacturers Association, Chairman of SE branch of Hovercraft Club of Great Britain (HCGB), and 'Cruising Director' for the HCGB (which frankly, sounds a bit weird.) I also race in the national championships and still thoroughly enjoy taking a hovercraft out for a spin on my favourite patch - the River Medway & Swale.

 So it was with some interest that I stumbled across the Medway & Swale Boating Association (MSBA) a little while ago.

To paraphrase their aims (from their website) :  “To promote and protect all waterborne sports and pastimes on the tidal Medway and Swale.”

The hovercraft community has been using Medway and Swale for a very long time, why wouldn’t we be part of the MSBA for the modest joining fee?  If you've seen any of my videos from Hoverclub events, you'll understand why - it's very tidal, loads of mudflats and shallow water to explore - and an amazing history with Napoleonic forts and WWI shipwrecks to visit.

So I decided to join up on behalf of the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain. As I'm involved with organising club events 8-10 times  a year, which usually launch into the Swale at the Long reach Ski Club, I felt it was important that our sport was represented within this new Organsiation.

Last night, along with Carl & Geoff, two of our growing list of active local enthusiasts, we went along to the Kent Boat & WaterSki club at Cuxton to see what it's all about. We were made very welcome and met loads of interesting folks who work and play on the Medway & Swale. The MSBA looks a very valuable resource and a great way of ensuring that the river is used responsibly - but that we water users don’t see more of our rights diminish as a result of increasing legislation and the 'environmental takeover' of the seashores. It was an interesting meeting and I'm pleased the Hoverclub now has a representation on it.

One issue was the contents of some previous minutes which indicated that reports were being made to Peel Ports (the harbour authorities) of illegal hovercraft launches from Gillingham Strand. I had to question this as the minutes seemed to indicated that the MSBA agreed with these complaints. The feller who's made these reports is a member and has my respect for saying 'that was me' and explaining why he made these reports. Basically, his position is that as somebody who runs a business on the Medway, he's sick of seeing so many laws and rules flouted by water users  and not being enforced. I can see that - if you're going to have rules, then enforce them. We explained that hovercraft are not PWC's - legally they are boats and the MCA categorises them as such and are therefore entirely legal to launch at Gillingham Strand. Further discussion centred on usage and speed limits - explaining that hovercraft create less wash at speeds over approx 8 knots which is the approximate speed where the hull is completely out of the water, resulting in no wash! In our experience, most harbour masters understand that and allow a small amount of leeway on the tightest speed limits - after all most speed  limits are made largely to prevent dangerous wash in busy and confined moorings.

And one point to remember. In the UK, you have a common law right to navigate on tidal waters. Restrictions may be made, permissions may be required, but you do have that right and it cannot be removed with a byelaw. Just remember that if you are ever told otherwise.

Bearing in mind that there have been literally hundreds of launches and hovercraft operating in the areas, to the best of my knowledge there have been absolutely no accidents involving hovercraft, very few breakdowns or recoveries and to the best of my knowledge and no prosecutions or charges brought against owners.

Statistically, hovercraft are the safest  means of passenger transport and its to my own personal delight that this amazing record also applies to the recreational hovercraft.

Hovercraft have considerable environmental advantages compared to other powered vessels.

  • They do not pollute the water like a PWC or boats - the exhaust is vented to atmosphere not into the water.
  • Recreational craft achieve approximately 20mpg, so use much less fuel than a boat of equivalent size.
  • They do not create any wash so they cause no damage to river banks
  • They have no protrusions underwater, so cannot strike marine mammals such as porpoises, dolphins or manatees. The lack of propeller  or jetdrive also means they do not damage the seabed in shallow water.
  • They exert 75 times less pressure on the ground than 12" of tide, or 100 times less than a man walking.

Hovercraft do have a rep for being noisy but modern craft using small commercial spec air-cooled engines are around a quarter of the noise of earlier two-stroke models.  The noise is directional in nature and due to the low frequency dies away very quickly. At 100m it is not any more intrusive than many other water vehicles.

One key point is that recreational hovercraft use tends to be 'get in and go' and are used in much the same manner as many people use a rib or small boat.  Club events are usually organised so that the group travels to an objective. Our last four hovercraft club cruises this year covered 23/32/50 and 45 miles - we don’t just go round and round in circles near the shore.

Being part of the Medway & Swale Boating Association looks to me like it will be a valuable and useful part of organising events and continuing the growth of the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain - and our thanks for allowing us to be part of it.

 

Contacts

Medway & Swale Boating Association

Hovercraft Club of Great Britain

Flying Fish Hovercraft

 

We're back racing in two weeks.

added by russ on August 29, 2014 at 05:40

Well, its that time of the year again!

Our new Cobra Formula 2 Hovercraft is pretty much ready, so we're off racing at Towcester Race Course, Northampton, in two weeks time. This time, we've dropped the stupidly-powerful-but-bloody-heavy GSXR600 engine in favour of a 440cc Snowmobile Engine from a 2007 Lynx MXZ Z440. Roughly 100bhp but 32kgs... should be quick but it'll take a lot of sorting out and setting up. 

We'll also have the new Coastal-Pro there, so if you'd like tocome along and see it, you'll be very welcome.

Just to whet your appetite, here's a taster - our Cobra F2 racing from Prudhomat, France in 2013.

Flying Fish Coastal-Pro Hovercraft

added by Emma on April 28, 2014 at 06:38

Testing out a Coastal-Pro Hovercraft which is off to Finland for a rescue organisation. Delighted with the performance - when she gets to Helsinki and our Finnish dealer RAF HOVERCRAFT , she'll receive her lights and graphics, plus all the other kit required.

 

Some of the historical 'haunts' on the River Medway.

added by Emma on March 20, 2014 at 07:14

The Medway is a spectacular river for those interested in maritime history. Last weekend, we used small hovercraft to explore some of the more interesting sites. There's still lots to see in the tidal area leading right up to Allington Lock. Check back for more updates as we explore this fascinating intertidal world!

 

View the video on  Youtube


www.flyingfishhovercraft.co.uk
0044 (0)1304 619820

Mercier-Jones Hovercraft - I'm calling you out!

added by Emma on March 18, 2014 at 07:21

 

 

The hovercraft community is pretty small, and the industry manufacturing them even smaller. So it's been very frustrating to watch the hype surrounding the Mercier-Jones hovercraft which has been created in Chicago and has secured so many column inches of newsprint over the last year or two.

It's fair to say, it looks very striking, and the manufacturers have clearly spent their money on the design, styling and marketing, which has landed them huge amounts of coverage in the media. Mercier-Jones  modestly claim the aesthetic inspiration of high end sports cars like Bugatti Veyrons & Audi R8's and make some incredible claims as to its performance and how their product will revolutionise an 'old-fashioned' industry. This is 'the future of personal transportation' apparently and it's amazing new system of steering paves the way for a 'street- legal' version… oh please, its vectored thrust, it's not new, it doesn’t work and the day will never come when one of these things drives legally down the road in a civilized country.

They claim 'hybrid technology' - Ah! All those batteries will explain why - at 400kgs plus - it's far too heavy for its size, leading to an unrealistic skirt pressure which means, it quite simply cannot work - these guys might be geniuses for all I know, but they can’t defeat physics.   

My hobby - away from building recreational and small commercial hovercraft - is racing them. I race in Formula 2 - my craft weighs half what the Mercier-Jones does, and has three times the horsepower. I reckon its good for 60mph. You should see what the 200kg Formula 1's can do with their 200bhp engines.  Take a look here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6YHz6YwlBo and you'll get the idea!

I doubt the bespoke, lightweight 200bhp hovercraft in this video are achieving much above 70mph, yet the Mercier Jones is faster than these apparently! "With top speeds estimated at over 80 MPH and acceleration that will rival it’s supercar cousins, Mercier-Jones hopes to handily beat the hovercraft land-speed record this summer of 56.25 mph and go after the water-speed record of 86.5 mph." It's rather like claiming your Dacia Duster will lap Spa Francochamps faster than Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes.

Unfortunately, Mercier-Jones aren’t the first company to flood the hovercraft market with ridiculous claims  The industry seems to have attracted lots of bullsh****rs over the years. They tend to come and go, usually leaving an investor or two considerably poorer.  But I have to say, this is certainly the most far-fetched, unrealistic  and misleading set of claims I've seen in my 30 years involvement with hovercraft. I'm sure their intentions are honest and this is a huge misunderstanding on my behalf.  

One of the outrageous claims that Mercier-Jones make is that their hovercraft works.

And that's an outrageous claim because….  it doesn’t! Look here for their test video….

http://www.independenttribune.com/news/concord/video_60c6a380-1ffb-11e3-8213-0019bb30f31a.html

There it is in a pond on the end of a rope (maybe that’s what they mean when they claim it's fly-by-wire?) in a big ball of spray hovering no more than one inch off the ground!  It's a fair way from this to their 87mph ambitions, that hovercraft does not produce a thrust ratio "which is slightly better than the supersonic B-2 Stealth Spirit" I've got to ask, what exactly are they celebrating at the end? That nobody drowned?

They claim the first craft will be delivered in May 2014, really? Who would witness this and splash out $75,000 on something which obviously doesn’t work? I've only ever seen one real one on film - everything else has been computer generated images.

You may well have picked up on the fact that I'm angry about this and may ask why. Well, it's not jealousy, (though I wouldn’t mind my company getting 1/10th the press coverage they've managed!) but I know just how much damage the Mercier Jones may cause the industry with their high profile shenanigans.  As secretary of the 'Hovercraft Manufacturers Association' (HMA) I'm very keen to mature and develop this nascent industry. Together with our some of our members, I've spent two years dealing with the UK Authorities to develop a new 'Hovercraft Code of Practice' and we're constantly lobbying government organisations and commercial operators who've had bad experiences with small hovercraft - and are firmly of the opinion that they simply don’t work. The Mercier Jones is simply going to further that opinion - negatively impacting on honest manufacturers and operators who are trying to develop their own businesses.

What I don’t know is what the aim of this whole project is - they've already attracted some funding from the IndieGoGo website - is the ambition to attract more, whilst they draw a decent wage? The problem is that plenty of people are excited by the idea of a hovercraft (when I finally invent a hoverboard, I'll be richer than Bill Gates) and I've seen some rather naïve investors and overexcited buyers jump in without first checking their facts.

One thing's for sure, the Mercier Jones doesn't work - yet they claim they’re taking orders. And that worries me.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/mercier-jones/hovercraft/prweb11664961.htm

Michael Mercier, Chris Jones - I'm calling you out to protect my industry and the sport I love. My company manufactures and sells over 100 of those 'old fashioned' hovercraft each year, and I'm happy to take on any dynamic challenge you can come up with. Flying Fish hovercraft steer accurately, hover a foot above the ground, do 40mph and work with up to four people on board - you can see them on the internet cruising  on rivers and the sea, beaches, ice, snow, sand, mud and estuaries. Can you provide a single piece of evidence that any of your claims are justified?

Because, if your company is ever going to achieve  100 hovercraft sales a year, one thing is pretty important.

They need to work.

 

 

 

Happy St.Patricks Day!

added by Emma on March 17, 2014 at 05:46

A pretty substantial road-trip last weekend, saw this Volantis Extreme III delivered to Cork in Southern Ireland - just in time for St Patricks Day (and some 6 Nations celebrations...grumble grumble!)

Fully specified with a 50bhp Rampage, LED lighting, complimenting chrome kit and two-tone metal-flake coachwork..,. this is a colour scheme we've never done before and will soon be seen exploring the southern coast of the Emerald Isle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three more Minnow Hovercraft leave tomorrow!

added by Emma on March 13, 2014 at 11:52

I'm pretty sure my toys weren't this much fun when I was a lad - a hoop - and a stick if I was lucky.

Anyway, three more Minnow Hovercraft leave us tomorrow for their lucky new owners. Enjoy yourself lads!

 

WANT TO WORK IN THE HOVERCRAFT INDUSTRY?

added by Emma on January 2, 2014 at 05:38

WANT TO WORK IN THE HOVERCRAFT INDUSTRY?

WANTED : General Manager / Accounts Manager for SE Kent based manufacturing company. Flying Fish manufactures around 100 small hovercraft each year, employs 20 people and exports to a dozen countries from our factory in Sandwich. In  order to achieve consistent, targeted, production deadlines, we need an experienced full-time manager to join the management team,  overseeing all aspects of production staff management including fibreglass hull manufacture, engineering and fitting out. In addition, the manager will be required to administer company book keeping and accounts, including VAT reconciliation and filing, deal with suppliers and customers and have knowledge of Quickbooks or similar accounts software.

This role will suit a mature and experienced person with a working mechanical knowledge, a management and accounts background and the ability to motivate and organise staff.
 
Flying Fish is a small but expanding company, and this is a key role - so  you'll need to display a flexible, committed and proactive approach which can assist the management team at the highest level.

The role is 40 hours per week, plus extra hours as required in busy times and the successful candidate will start at the end of January.

For more details, please send your CV to Emma or Russ at Flying Fish Hovercraft,  via email : russ@flyingfishhovercraft.co.uk


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