John Sturgeon, the moose-hunting hovercraft pilot - and UK Law!

added by russ on January 20, 2016 at 10:22

Over in America, specifically Alaska, a chap by the name of John Sturgeon is currently in the Supreme Court standing up for his right to use a small hovercraft to hunt moose in a national park. Back in 2007, John’s noisy old-fashioned and unreliable 1991 ‘Scat’ hovercraft broke down on his way to a moose hunting expedition. He was accosted by park rangers who told him he could not use his hovercraft in the national park and eventually had to remove it on a boat as, even when mended the Park Rangers would not allow him to drive the hovercraft out again! They were, according to John “real jerks!” But, it turned out they'd picked on the wrong man! To cut a long story short John has taken his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Now, whilst not pretending to understand American law it appears that John's case centres around federal law attempting to overrule state law and his right to navigate on rivers in national parks.

You can read more HERE

 

I'm watching this case with considerable interest and it would appear it has far-reaching consequences for hovercraft use in America. Here in the UK, over the years, there's been a few odd occasions where overzealous wardens have tried to prevent hovercraft owners exercising their right of navigation on tidal waters. This is usually done by stating that hovercraft cannot be used in the many environmentally protected areas around the coastline of the UK. In fact, pretty much every inch of UK coastline now has some type of environmental protection. Choose from SSSI, RAMSAR, SPA, AONB, LNR,NNR,MNR… To name but a few! The situation is confused further by the inevitable fact that there are protected areas designated by the EU present in the UK as well!

Of course protecting the environment is extremely important and in my experience the type of people who operate small hovercraft for recreational and pleasure purposes are not the type of people who set out to cause problems act irresponsibly or cause distress to animals, plants or Park Rangers. Occasionally however, you meet the type of warden who would prevent anybody from doing anything within "his area" and goes well beyond his given powers in trying to prevent anything he may perceive as threatening unwelcome or illegal. The most commonly cited reason for an objection to a hovercraft is that it may disturb birds feeding on the waterline. This is easily countered by observing an ‘offset’ of 100 m, something which we advise all our owners to do. But you can no more blame a hovercraft for scaring birds then you can blame a car for exceeding 70 miles an hour. Like all these things common sense needs to be applied on both sides.

Just to re-cap, hovercraft do not poison the water with exhaust fumes like boats do. They have no propeller water which means animal strikes are impossible and there is no underwater disturbance to damage the seabed or plant life. At anything over 8 knots, there is no wash meaning riverbanks are not washed away. They use a fraction of the amount of fuel of an equivalent sized boat which must be a good thing for both the owner and the environment! There’s no powered marine vessel which is more environmentally sound. Why then do they get such a bad rap? I believe it is because some hovercraft were/are noisy and this is a very obvious downside compared to the discrete poisoning of the water which boats are guilty of. Our own craft have slow fans, good exhausts, low powered engines and clever engineering which keeps noise down to very acceptable levels but to some their preconceptions will not be overcome.

Confronted by an intransigent council, warden or Harbour Master is there any defence? Well yes! Fortunately, getting on for 1000 years ago, King John signed the Magna Carta. This granted us all a right of navigation on tidal waters around the UK which persists today. You cannot use a bylaw to remove a common law right which brings us neatly onto Langstone Harbour which has a bylaw preventing the operation of hydrofoils, jet skis, skiing, seaplanes and hovercraft amongst other things. I often wonder if I should visit Langstone Harbour by hovercraft observing the speed limit and sticking to the Channel to see what would happen, as the Harbour Master has certainly prevented operation of hovercraft previously. This would make for a very interesting test case with the same far-reaching consequences that John Sturgeon’s case in the US may have across the pond. Whilst advocating responsible operation of hovercraft, and being somebody who would much rather avoid feeding the lawyers, in this case it is clear the Harbour Master has no intention of seeing reason. To prevent this type of behaviour in other locations it may be that some “direct action” may be required to prevent other authorities acting in a manner which they are unaware is illegal and beyond they given powers

However, we have never heard of any incidents where hovercraft have damaged the environment, owners have been charged or prosecuted or operators refused the right to launch (other than good old Langstone Harbour of course!) But sometimes a little education is necessary. Given the increasing numbers of small hovercraft regularly used every weekend throughout the country this is a testament to the responsible behaviour and low noise levels of modern hovercraft. One of the things I love about hovercraft is that they aren’t well-known or understood by the many and I enjoy educating people who go on to become lifelong hovercraft enthusiasts. However, I will fight to the very end to protect our rights and as I said above it would be better if situations such as that in the US were avoided. We work towards the day when there is  was an acceptance that hovercraft do not represent any type of a threat to the environment through which they travel.

 In the meantime good luck John, stick it to ‘em on behalf of the little guy!

HCGB - 50th Anniversary Crusing Festival July 2016

added by russ on January 11, 2016 at 07:23

This summer, from the 16th to the 25th of July, the Hovercraft Club pf Great Britain will be celebrating it's 50th anniversary with a program of cruising events held on the Swale and the Rivers Medway and Thames. Based at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, the event will start with simple local trips and get more challenging over the week culminating in a cruise through central London!

The plan is to make best use of the different times of the tides each day but will need some flexibilty depending on the weather and what attendees want to do. The theme of our 50th Anniversary is to celebrate many of the different things the HCGB has done over the years. Way back in 1974 there was a cruising week on the shores of Loch Lubnaig in Scotland. In the 1970s there was racing and cruising many times on the River Thames in Central London. The tidal estuary of the River Medway has been a regular weekend cruising outing since the 1980s and today hovercraft continue to explore it most weekends. You can drop in and out as much as you like over the course of the event and charges are minimal, simply to cover site fees.

There's a website now up with a provisional program - click HERE to visit the page, and by all means contact us here at The British Hovercraft Company as we're helping out with the organisation of some parts of the event. http://www.whc2016.com

My cruise through central London in a Marlin video HERE

Hovercraft must meet some minimum standards for the event such as buoyancy, noise and safety.

Hope to see you there!

 

Hovercraft Torture Testing - Torrential Rain, High Winds & Salt Water!

added by russ on October 7, 2014 at 08:15

What were we thinking? It was Carl's fault, he wanted to spend his birthday out on his hover. The weather forecast was for 25mph gusts and torrential rain. For once they got it right. Together with 3 Marlin II's, it was also the first time out in such terrible conditions for the new Coastal-Pro MACV.

We returned some three hours and 20 miles later very cold, and soaked through to the unmentionables - but we did prove that our craft can take pretty much anything you can throw at them!

Take a look at the video, and leave a comment/like it (if you do!)

Flying Fish Marlin III, Coastal-Pro and BBV500 hovercraft are ready for marine usage. Days like this teach you plenty and having experienced many of them over the years, we know our hovercraft perform extremely well even in the worst conditions.

The Coastal-Pro is the new 2014 3-4 Seat Hovercraft from Flying Fish which is designed for the commercial market. With Hovercraft legislation having completely changed in 2014, small hovercraft can now be used for a huge range of intertidal and shallow water applications such as water sampling, nearshore survey,Water Quality Sampling (Benthic, WFD, Plankton sampling,) Intertidal Fish Stock Monitoring (Seine and Fyke netting) Ecological Survey,Tidal Flow Monitoring,Accoustic Survey (Hydrophone) Bank Erosion Surveys, Bridge and Structural Surveys, wildlife Monitoring such as bird, seal & cetacean and habitat survey.
One day, who knows, maybe the Coastguard will finally see sense and buy some hovercraft for Mud Rescue!

 

Current Pricing 2014, ask for full pricing.

Complete Component Sets to build your own Snapper or Marlin II from £5000+VAT
Marlin Hovercraft - New - from £8750.00+VAT
Coastal-Pro from £19,950.00+VAT

Hovercraft Cruises - Date for the diary late 2014.

added by russ on October 2, 2014 at 06:38

Amongst the many 'hovercraft hats' I wear is the slightly dodgy sounding 'cruising director' for Hovercraft Club of Great Britain events.

Following last night's South East branch meeting, we've put together some dates for some late season cruises as below.

As usual - all hovercraft are welcome as long as they are reliable and safe in an uncontrolled (and demanding) marine environment. These are club events, not strictly Flying Fish ones but you'll need to join the HCGB to come along.

Saturday 4th October 2014 - Launching Gillingham Strand

Saturday 1st November - Long Reach Ski Club

Saturday 29th November - Long Reach Ski Club

Friday 26th December - Boxing Day cruise. Probabaly a 'round Thanet' keep-warm, pub-based cruise launching from Sandwich, Kent.

All dates are weather dependant - please contact me for more details of you'd like to come along.

Download the CRUISING GUIDE :    CRUISING INFORMATION.pdf (194.46 kb)

 

 

 

European Hovercraft Racing from Towcester Race Course......Grrrrr!

added by russ on September 24, 2014 at 04:18

Well, that went well. Or Not.

Having been rather too buried under customers hovercraft during 2014, I hadn't managed to get back racing this season.

My new Cobra Formula 2 hovercraft was sporting a rather sexy Rotax 453 two-stroke engine (yes, yes, I know....!) in place of the hugely powerful but too heavy GSX-R600 Suzuki 4 Stroke. Lift system was carried forward from the previous craft -a fter all, it hovers beautifully and never lets me down (A Simonini Evo2 paramotor engine, it even has the luxury of electric strart!) But as the last race meeting of the year was at my favourite track, and was a European (more/better craft and top level racing) I decided we'd finish the Cobra off and have a bit of fun.

A few frantic nights work and we were ready.

After all, we were also holding the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association AGM (The HMA - more about that later) at the same venue on the thursday before, so I kind of spotted a sneaky day-off on the friday. It all fitted (actually Friday was spent smashing posts into the ground and building the course so that bit didn't work out!) but it was nice to be there in plenty of time.

A brief test of the new Rotax 440cc engine showed it pulled like a train....it passed the float test (always a nervous time for a fat bloke like me!) so I joined the back of the grid. No practice, I wasn't ready. In the race, it was clear the engine needed some set-up, when it did pull through into the rev range and the power valves opened... it was superb! But most of the time  - it didn't!

Anyway, finished the race pretty much last but with a plan and after a bit of tinkering tried again. This improved things a bit in race 2.... until the poreviously faultless lift engine cut. Dead. Just like that.

On a pretty much blind brow.

About 5 seconds after I'd overtaken Bananaman.

The ensuing impact wasn't his fault - it was mine for stopping in a damn stupid place.

In true 'hovercraft impact' style, his craft lost a couple of segments - the back of mine was trashed. The hitter always suffer much less damage than the hitee - all he had to do was push the rudders into the path of the blades and The 110bhp contained in the blades blew apart, did some severe damage, bent the fan frame and ripped out every last flow straightener and cone. The good news is that the hull is untouched and the running gear is fine - in any case the fan frame was temporary so thats no big deal.

Oops.

The message my friends is - don't rush building things. I should have started earlier and taken my time. Of course, the engine started up straight after the race, but somethign meant it failed on the day and mor etesting - in fact any testing - would likely have found it.

But - it was a great meeting, caught up with some friends I haven't seen for a while and superb racing from a challenging but very fast course.

And just to prove that there's always someone who has a worse weekend than you....this clip is from the start of a Formula One Race. Conrad Beale rolled his craft going into the first corner and was very, very lucky not to be collected by Greg Lallemand who was right behind him. Conrad ended up in hospital for observation and brain scans (a bit of a surprise as I'd always thought Formula One Hovercarft drivers had no brains!) but was released a day later. No doubt he feels pretty second hand, and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

Thanks to Ross Hammond for some top-quality HD coverage!

Ross Hammond _ Facebook.mp4 (5.80 mb)

So - it'll soon be christmas which means May bank holidays not that far away - Best get on with mending it I guess!

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.

We now have the go ahead from the MCA - commercial operations for small hovercraft are a 'go!'

added by russ on June 20, 2014 at 09:00

After some two years of negotiations with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), we have finally been given the formal confirmation in writing - that Ultralight Hovercraft (up to 500kgs) may engage in certain commercial activity without a requirement for coding/certification.

 Not to be too crass about it - this means that using small hovercraft for paying work is now possible!

 To clarify the situation, I've bullet-pointed the situation below.

 

 Uses / Operations

Survey, inspection & maintenance.

Mud & Water Sampling

Geo-technics

Standby & Support

Security & Patrol

Weed Spraying

Nature monitoring/bird counts etc

Any application not involving paying passengers.

 

Operating Areas & Restrictions

Intertidal Areas

Estuaries and Rivers

Tidal Mudflats

Saltings & Marshes

Up to 1/2 a mile from the shore (beyond catagorised waters)

Within 3 miles of a safe haven (obviously, 80% of beaches are a safe haven in a hovercraft!)

Daylight/favourable weather.

 

Hovercraft Specification

Less than 500kgs unladen weight.

Built in compliance with the Hovercraft Code of Practice (HCoP)

Certified to be compliant by manufacturer.

Maximum of four persons (no paying passengers)

 

Operator's Qualifications

RYA Powerboat 2 or equivalent (two day course/exam)

 

Valid From

 June 19th 2014

Hovercraft Availability

The new Coastal-Pro is due for release in approximately 4 weeks and has been designed specifically for commercial applications and of course, to comply with the new HCoP.

We do still have a one off - the last of the current Coastal-Pro models available at a bargain price - so be quick if you're interested at £13,500.00+VAT!

This is a huge step forward for the industry and a fabulous opportunity for those who wish to be 'in at the beginning' and exploit the commercial opportunity it presents. There is genuinely now a viable, safe and cost effective solution to operations on mud flats, saltings, marshlands, beaches - with operating costs LOWER than equivalent conventional boats. Flying Fish have been very much at the forefront during the two years developing the HCoP and obviously we're delighted that it has finally been adopted by the MCA.

If you'd like a PDF copy of the HCoP, or wish to know more, please call or email Russ at Flying Fish.

Email :               russ@flyingfishhovercraft.co.uk

Telephone :        01304 619820

 

 

 

 

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

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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