Buying a new hovercraft - Turn-key, Build or Assemble? What are the options?

added by russ on March 21, 2017 at 07:02

All three options have their advantages. Companies like ourselves and a number of others, supply a turnkey product to buyers who want to get out there and have fun using their hovercraft. Just like you’d buy a jetski, boat, car or quad, you spend your money and make your choice as to the brand, size and specification.  For your money, you get a fully warranted, reliable vehicle which should be certified and built to the standards of the MCA Hovercraft Code of Practice. It really should be that simple!

There’s basically two other options.

Build from plans

Companies such as Universal Hovercraft in the USA will sell you a set of plans and you can build the whole hovercraft yourself. You’ll buy the timber, source an engine or two, sew up your own skirt, source fan assembly parts, build steel fan frames, upholster seats and decide what colour gloss it needs to be finished in. It can be a fascinating project – as long as you have the necessary space, time and (crucially) skills & knowledge to complete it safely.

Unfortunately, where new and first time owners/builders are concerned, it’s probably fair to say that more don’t get finished than do. It’s a major project, demanding and time consuming. Enthusiasm and cash often run out before the projects completed – especially given the price of marine quality plywood nowadays! This often means that they end up on ebay as another unfinished project (which in themselves can a be a good buy if the work has been completed safely and well.)  

So, if it does make it to completion, what do you have? Well – taking the Sevtec & Universal designs, they’re very much a water craft designed for the American market – much more at home on big, open areas of water than exploring creeks and gullies. Their bag skirted design can be a challenge on mudflats and the large propeller means they can lack maneuverability. This means they work well as a long distance cruisers on calm water, but they’re not really a thrilling ride.  Think more ‘limo’ than ‘Lotus’ and you have the idea!

Without the development that a professional manufacturer puts into their craft, homebuilds should always be inspected by a competent engineer before operation. The terrible 2011 incident in New Zealand, when a man who’d built a hovercraft was killed by the propeller flying off the first time he used it just illustrates the point only too clearly.  But dramatic accidents aside, (this was an unfortunate but inevitable accident) making the hovercraft work properly can be nearly as big a job as constructing it. The builder often become despondent the first time out when it doesn’t work and it ends up - you guessed it - on ebay. Fine tuning the skirt, lift and thrust fans/props, matching the engine to the fan and selecting the correct speeds, getting the trim right, chasing away vibrations and making the steering safe…none of it is a five minute job and can soak up hundreds of hours of painstaking development.

And so, a year after work began, and with the homebuilder still setting-up his craft and ironing out problems, the feller who bought a professionally manufactured craft has many hours of hovercrafting adventures behind him. Now that’s not to say that the homebuilder isn’t enjoying himself – but it’s certainly a different type of enjoyment!

The other issue with regards building a hovercraft is the resale value. Being of (usually) a timber or aluminium construction, they usually look pretty crude,  and are often seen to sport features such as (I kid you not) plastic garden chairs for seating. It’s rare that a homebuilt hovercraft will fetch even a fraction of what it costs to build (especially if you price in your own time.) Sadly, it’s a fact that people simply aren’t prepared to pay much for your own efforts - rather like with homebuilt/converted camper vans. Some are very good, but they’ll never get the same price as a coach-built one.  On the other hand, a well maintained, three year old commercially built hovercraft can reasonably be expected to retain as much as 75% of its value.

 

 

Some hovercraft home-builds can be....rudimentary! (below) Limited to grassy field, it would be best not set out on a maritime adventure in this one!

 

Build a Hovercraft Kit

Going back a few years, we realised we were being asked time and again to supply complete kits, so we introduced them and have sold many since then. This is very much ‘halfway house’ between buying a completed hovercraft and building a hovercraft from plans. The kits we supply contain everything needed to build one of our Marlin or Snapper models. The fiberglass hull is fully assembled so that the fit-out is simply a mechanical project which is well within the capabilities of any competent mechanic without needing specialist tools and equipment.

Whilst it gives the builder the satisfaction of building their own machine, there’s two major advantages in the kit, compared to building a wooden hovercraft from a set of plans – aside from the fact it’s a much quicker build, meaning you can get out and play with it that much sooner!

Firstly, it’s going to work. Engine, fan, transmission, hull design are already decided and have been successfully used hundreds of times. No guessing, no calculations - follow the instructions and you’ll build and play!

Secondly, and this one’s a big one, it’ll be worth money when (if!) you come to sell it. The GRP hull’s are the same as we use on production, ‘turn-key’ hovercraft so that the finished article looks basically the same as those models. No clumsy wood, sharp corners, garden chair seating or unfinished edges – the finished hovercraft will look the part and fetch a good price.

 

 

 

 

Options for a ‘new’ hovercraft

Whether you buy a complete, turn-key hovercraft, a hovercraft kit, or build a hovercraft is down to your own skills, funds and wishes of course.  We're here to advise, just pick up the phone!

The next part of this series looks at the various aspects of hovercraft design, with advice about what to look for in a used / second-hand hovercraft.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

British Hovercraft Company - Play Day for friends and family!

added by russ on June 23, 2015 at 09:12

It's been a pretty mental few months now and at times, the order book has rather outstripped production! But the team working in production have risen to the task brilliantly - working, quickly and efficiently and putting extra hours in as required to make sure that customer orders have been completed on time - we're are genuinely grateful for their efforts.

As a bit of a thank you, we decided to throw another one of our 'play days' where we invite the familes and friends to come along for a drive in the safety of our demo track in Sandwich. Some vigourous work with the mower, rakes and water pump (to refill the bone dry pond!) gave us a useable track, Emma's new exhibition trailer (of which she is rediculously proud and excited!) was pressed into use as the corporate centre (we're not quite Red Bull Formula One yet!) and a huge BBQ thrown together from an empty acetone drum, base made from an old trailer chassis and off-cuts of hovercraft fan ducts providing the grill!

All in all, a quick and dirty bit or organisation which worked out just great. I was responsible for the weather (which was gorgeous) and we got really lucky when a stunt plane turned up and put a spectacular display on for the show in the next field over... result! Nobody died of food poisoning, dozens of people drove a hover for the first time and the kids and dogs were completely exhausted when we finished up around 6pm.

A great day, thanks so much to all our staff for their hard work, and friends and family for coming along and helping out.

Here's a few photographs from the day, mostly courtesy of my Auntie Brenda!

 

 Awesome show - Pitt Special?

 The peace and tranquility of an English summers day!

 

I taught a lot of people to drive... successfully too! :-)

Gary soaking the girls. 6 years old and they love it...2 years old and they hate it!

Your never too old to try it - right uncle?

Emma's trailer..next stop the vinyl wrap ready for some shows.

And you're never too young either - 10 year old Kai drove the Snapper like a boss! ("Daaaad? Can I race one next year....?")

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!

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

 

Hod Pod's 'Buyers Guide' - What a load of Nonsense!

added by russ on July 7, 2014 at 07:27

 

 

Buy a Hovercraft

An insinuating, somewhat snide 'buyers guide' clearly aimed at The British Hovercraft Company by UK manufacturer ‘HovPod!’ We were mailed the link by one of our customers who thought this thinly disguised ‘buyers guide’ was anything but impartial advice!

 

We don’t usually respond to the petty digs of other manufacturers but this one goes a bit far and contains many inaccuracies and half-truths so in the best spirit of the Tesco/Asda war, BHC would like to take the opportunity to state the other side of the argument. But seriously HovPod,  man up if you have something to say to us! We've offered time and again to put a craft up against the HovPod for a ‘back-to-back’ review. What a great read that would be…

 

The world's best-selling personal hovercraft.

-vs-

The worlds heaviest personal hovercraft.

 

But whenever we do, the HovPod marketing machine suddenly becomes a shrinking violet and goes all quiet and shy!

 

Oh well, read on and judge for yourself, and whether you agree (or even care!) or not, bear in mind that we at least have the minerals to answer our critics directly - rather than hide behind  statements like ‘Some manufactures…’

 

We have The bold statements below are from the HovPod buyers guide, the italics, our response to some wild, incorrect and sometimes, plain-silly statements.

 

Here we go then….

If you only ask 6 things, be sure to ask suppliers the questions below:

 

1/. Hovercraft Construction

Hovercraft are weight sensitive, so manufacturers reduce weight wherever possible – some glass fibre hovercraft are very lightweight, the construction is much thinner than boat GRP, so may not last many seasons if you intend to race hovercraft.

Cruising hovercraft tend to be more durable but heavier, so decide how you will use before you choose your hovercraft. HDPE is far stronger than glass fibre, and extremely buoyant.

Question – what is the hull made from, how durable is it, if I damage the hull, is it game over? How much will it cost to repair? How will it handle ice?

Answer - Well, at least we start with some agreement! I agree with the comment "Hovercraft are weight sensitive" – In fact better than agreeing with it, we actually apply this principle. The writer of this 'guide' conveniently misses the fact that HDPE (which the HovPod is made from) is almost unbelievable heavy. The Marlin III and HovPod are roughly the same size but the HovPod is 415kgs against the Marlin's 225kgs! That’s like having two fully grown men on board before you even start! This is simply way too heavy for a hovercraft of this size and as a consequence, performance is never going to be adequate. One HovPod model uses 120bhp – yet our 35bhp craft outperforms it! All HovPods need big power just to make a pretence of working - so in goes a raucous 2 stroke motor, loads of expensive fuel and reduced range! Physics apply to hovercraft too, they're not magic! HDPE isn’t stiff like a Marlin, it’s just a bit ‘droopy’ (see 1m10sec) which means the shafts cannot run straight and fans are likely to rub on the duct - this inevitably leads to a regular and embarrassing failure to perform (although we're sure this isn’t the case with the HovPod.) Aesthetically, HDPE has a horrible 'orange peel' finish, so it cannot ever be fully cleaned of mud, dust or sand - so HDPE will never look good again once it's been used, especially in mud or sand - no, HDPE is best used for public toilets – another popular application.

GRP works beautifully if  laid up by professionals with industry/hovercraft knowledge (which is why 99% of manufacturers use it!) Add in some strategically placed Kevlar (you know, bullet-proof vests!) and core material for buoyancy and stiffness - you have a strong, stiff hull structure which looks beautiful and cleans up like new.

 

2/. Hovercraft Engines

Some suppliers try to maintain that 2 stroke engines are louder than 4 stroke engines; actually most hovercraft noise emits from the fan blades tips and larger ducts are more air efficient than smaller duct sizes, less powerful engines need to rotate the blades faster to get more air throughput. Diesel engines are only found on larger hovercraft, they do not have the power to weight characteristics required for smaller hovercraft. Some suppliers invalidate engine warranty by modifying the engine to get maximum energy output, engine manufactures don’t like their products running on high stress all day, who does!

Question – is full engine manufacturer’s warranty offered with this hovercraft?

Answer - No engine manufacturer warrants engines for hovercraft use (salt-water you see…) so I can  help with this one. 'No!' The question is, does the hovercraft manufacturer offer one - after all, they should understand the installation and prepare the engine for marine operations.

Anyway, welcome to the world of fantasy. A world where 2 strokes are no louder than 4 strokes? Here’s a fact : 2 Strokes are louder than 4 strokes, due to the way the engines work. The reliability of microlight-derived two strokes in a marine environment is awful - any saltwater on a plug lead or air filter and you've pretty much guaranteed you're coming to standstill (been there, done that – we moved on from two-strokes 12 years ago and never looked back!) Less powerful engines do not mean a faster fan and more noise, it's strange that a manufacturer would spout such total nonsense! The variables are : Speed of rotation, size of fan (same on both craft), the pitch of, and number of blades but it would appear that the writer of this 'buyers guide' doesn’t know much about integrated hovercraft. The overweight HovPod needs 12 blades in order to lift which reduces 'push' - the Marlins use 6 and is on full lift at 2000rpm, the HovPod uses 12 and just lifts at 5000rpm! (See picture)

No, the only reason you'd use a 2-stroke is because the basic hovercraft is so damn heavy it needs big power from the lightest engine. But the downsides of 2-strokes are enormous which is why they are now largely defunct in any modern vehicle. Think about it - would you rather have….

A screaming, noisy, highly stressed and noisy two stroke drinking £30 in fuel every hour and needs refilling every 45 minutes (HCGB Magazine test) - or….

A quiet, low-revving reliable four-stroke sipping no more than £10/hour in fuel and running for 3 hours between refuels. An engine designed to run quietly all day, with no fuss.   

Reliability, limited range, noise and pollution - no wonder that two-strokes are banned in so many countries and haven’t been seen in cars, motorbikes or jetskis for many years.

The two-stroke is (sorry to get all ‘Sex-in-the-City’ here) "Sooo last century!"

Alternatively you can order your HDPE hovercraft with a 120bhp 4-Stroke, turbocharged Weber engine.  I’ll say that again… 120bhp! In a 3m hovercraft… why for God’s sake…why??? How can that possibly be necessary? A Marlin would be lethal with 120bhp, our 50bhp motor is fast enough for pretty much any petrol head!

3/. Hovercraft Safety

To get over this power inadequacies, some suppliers decide not to fit a rear fan guard to allow cleaner air-throughput for greater efficiency – you need to decide if a rear fan a sensible safety feature when kids are around, or not. Fans spin at 2000 rpm – kids might wish to learn play guitar as they get older. In rare cases, fingers have become detached, there was even one fatality recorded in New Zealand – self builder, no fan protection, front or rear.

Question – Is a rear fan guard fitted? Or just a warning sticker? Younger kids don’t read so well.

Answer- Oh dear! The Maritime & Coastguard Agency published a 'Hovercraft Code of Practice' in 2016 with no requirement for REAR guarding (but closely specified front guarding), plus The Hovercraft Club of Great Britain and Hoverclub UK all accept that a rear guard is not necessary provided other methods are used to reduce the potential risk posed by the fan assembly (including cone/duct/stators/rudders/safety stickers etc) Presumably the scaremongering writer of the buyers guide would also like to also enclose helicopter fan blades and the bottom of car engine bonnet compartments – you know, just in case our little guitar prodigy climbs underneath it and shoves a highly skilled hand into the fan belt.  Front guards are a different matter altogether and all HMA* manufacturers fit a protective guard of approved design. rear guards are not necessary, and they simply add to the cacophony of noise a 2-stroke motor makes.

4/. Hovercraft Plowing

Some hovercraft plow in on water – plowing refers to sudden deceleration which might cause the hovercraft to spill contents over the handlebars, passengers and all. Some suppliers reduce plowing tendencies through design, other suppliers say – “hovercraft plow, live with that”.

Question – Does the hovercraft have a design to reduce the risk of plowing?

Answer - Well, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can tell you that BHC Hovercraft have been designed to run fast on water in all conditions with good handling characteristics. Have we 100% eliminated it? Nope, but then again - nor did they on the cross-channel SRN4's! A good skirt design is crucial as is a decent, non-peaky power delivery and easy handling (ie less weight allows the craft to recover from a partial plough-in.) It really isn’t the issue some would have you believe.

However, if you raise the skirt pressure high enough (for instance by making the hovercraft really, really heavy for its size…) and really, really slow, then the chances of  a plough-in are reduced.  'Nuff said?

5/. Hovercraft Hump

Particularly so in shallow water, hovercraft need maximum power to get airborne – to get over the pressure wave all hovercraft create. Hovercraft suppliers may fudge their specifications to mislead people, since it is not widely understood, that hovercraft can pick up 50% more weight when starting on land. We have seen some suppliers showing 4 or 5 people skimming over a puddle – this is misleading, since the issue only involves starting on water – if you stop and cannot get back on that air cushion, it could be a long swim home. You must drill down to ask this question -

Question – What weight can be lifted when starting from an on-water start?

Answer - This made us laugh here at BHC. The pithy little comments about "4 or 5 people skimming over a puddle" refers to THIS VIDEO in which our Coastal-Pro (the previous single engine design) is shown buzzing round with 6 adults on board (described as 'just for kicks' in the caption, we actually allow ourselves to have fun with our hovercraft and push them way beyond what we claim in our literature - to see what the limits are and drive development!) But keep watching, we clearly show it easily going over hump in our 'puddle' with three on board. Our actual claims for 'hump' performance made on our website and in our literature is 200kgs (Marlin) and 300kgs (Coastal Pro Rampage) or 350kgs (CP Toyota)

And… I'd say that people in glass houses etc…this is a HovPod attempting to get 'over hump' VIDEO (Turn your volume down before watching!) with one person on board! Yet HovPod claim something ridiculous for their already ‘battleship-heavy’ craft - 375kgs!

 

I'm so confident with the claims Flying Fish make that we recently introduced a Money Back Guarantee  if performance is not as claimed.

So that's that one 'drilled-down' then.

 

6/. Hovercraft Skirt Material

Hovercraft skirts can be designed as one bag, or many sections – multiple sections are better since if damage occurs, it is cheaper to replace one section than the whole bag skirt. Neoprene coated nylon will deteriorate when expose to UV (sunlight) Hypalon tears too easily, we recommend polyurethane coated anti-rip nylon weave.

Question - How long will the skirts last? What are the replacement costs? How much will shipping cost?

Answer - Not much to say here - other than we've been using neoprene coated nylon (to our own secret recipe - it’s a bit like the Colonels chicken, there’s a little something else in there we can’t tell you about!) and have found no other material lasts as well. Of course, if you had a particularly heavy hovercraft (which didn’t lift properly as a result) then you may find a heavyweight material made of what is basically a RIB tube material, may last a little longer. Skirt life and performance does rather depend on whether your hovercraft actually hovers! The HovPod uses 375gsm material, over twice as thick as that on the BHC hovercraft…and the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain review of it said “lt feels like driving a car with the handbrake on.”

Conclusion

The bottom line is that a personal hovercraft built out of HDPE plastic will never perform as well, or as reliably as a GRP one. It’s too heavy and floppy - and because of that, a hovercraft made of HDPE is compromised right from the outset. Two stroke engines suck for hovercraft/marine applications.

Here at BHC we prove our commitment to our deigns by racing them both inland and in a coastal-environment, by organising cruising events on behalf of the UK Hovercraft Club, by taking part in a dozen ‘Rhone Raid’ events (400 miles over 6 days) and even nipping home in them on sunny days!

So, here’s OUR ‘buyers guide’

1.    Try driving a HovPod

2.    Try driving a Marlin

3.    Decide for yourself.

We try to play nicely, but HovPod have a long history of telling the hovercraft community it’s doing it all wrong so, this seems like a good place to finally address it and take the opportunity to re-issue an old challenge.

“Let’s have it out once and for all. Instead of making up smarmy little ‘buyers guides’ which are anything but a buyer's guide, or making up nonsense for your 50+ websites (yes, honestly!), let’s get one of your craft and one of ours, a mutually agreeable magazine reviewer and see which one comes out best!”

Response provided by The British Hovercraft Company Ltd.

*Hovercraft Manufacturers Association

 

 

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

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.

 

 

 


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