Hovercraft Manufacturers Association wins industry award!

added by Emma on May 4, 2016 at 04:24

We're delighted to announce that the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association has been awarded a Marine Safety Award by the Royal Institute of Naval Architects. RINA is an internationally renowned professional institution whose members are involved at all levels in the design, construction, maintenance and operation of marine vessels and structures, so it's particularly exciting that the hovercraft industry has been recognised by such a prestigious organisation. I'm pretty sure this is a first (for many years at least!) and it marks another step in our ongoing efforts to mature the hovercraft industry.

The award was jointly shared with Griffon Hoverworks, who contributed their enormous experience in the technical preparation of the Hovercraft Code of Practice. Speaking for ourselves, the new code has already made a substantial difference to our business, with an increase in sales of our Coastal-Pro model to small UK companies who are operating them in a commercial role for survey, monitoring and crew transfer. We also have our own craft that we hire out to companies and organsations operating in intertidal areas via Coastal Transit Services. None of this would be possible without the new code, and other members of the HMA are benefitting equally, seeing both opportunities and safety improved through a set of clear, plain regulation written specifically for small hovercraft by the industry itself.

Our thanks, on behalf of the HMA to RINA, and on a personal note, congratulations to the HMA members who contributed so much time and experience in seeing this daunting project through to its successful completion.

 

 

Mark Downer from Griffon Hoverworks and Russ Pullen, from The British Hovercraft Company receiving the award from RINA at the Lancaster Hotel, London.

 

 

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....?")

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

For demonstrations, please call us on 01304 619820

 

 

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!

HOVERCRAFT OPERATIONS ON THE RIVER MERSEY

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

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

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

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

CLICK FOR VIDEO - NIGHTIME TRANSFER 

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

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

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

VIDEO - DAYTIME FROM BARGE TO SHORE

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

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

 

Evening on the River mersey

 

Early morning, Sealegs and the MACV together.

 

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

 

COASTAL TRANSIT SERVICES - A NEW SERVICE FOR BUSINESSES WORKING IN INTERTIDAL AREAS.

added by russ on September 23, 2014 at 08:01

Survey and monitoring operations in intertidal areas have always represented a challenge. At best walking across tidal flats carrying heavy equipment can be hard, slow, dirty work -  at worst, soft mud and fast tides can make it a lethal business.

The Solution

However - a practical and cost-effective solution is finally available. In June this year, the regulations governing the use of small hovercraft for UK commercial operations were substantially revised, after UK manufacturers Flying Fish Hovercraft & Griffon Hoverwork spent two years working with the MCA to produce a 'Hovercraft Code of Practice' (HCoP).

This means that small hovercraft can be used in limited commercial operations without any requirement for coding, as long as it is built, equipped and operated in accordance with the HCoP. To that end, Flying Fish designed and produced a new model of hovercraft specifically aimed at intertidal marine work such as sampling, survey and ecological monitoring in environmentally sensitive areas such as estuaries, foreshores and mudflats.  

The MACV can travel over any surface. Any depth of water, mudflats and sand can be traversed in complete safety with up to 4 persons on board. Noise levels and economy are exceptional, and the MACV has zero environment impact as it exerts less pressure on the ground than 12" of tide. Research as shown that birds are no more disturbed by the craft than any other vessel.  The speed of the MACV means that projects can be completed much more quickly and 'between the tide' times are extended without risk, saving time and money.

Cost Effective Rental

In response to adoption of the new code, Flying Fish have launched a new service 'Coastal Transit Services' to provide MACV craft and skippers on either long or short term hire anywhere in the UK or EU. Hire costs may vary based on location and length of deployment, but are quite modest in the region of £700.00/day including skipper and fuel  As manufacturers, CTS have full support and backup for their service, and skippers are all qualified to required standards as well as having a minimum of 5 years experience in small craft.

Recent work has been undertaken with a survey company on the tidal Thames, and a University in the west country with both organisations declaring themselves delighted with the comfort, safety and cost savings.

MACV's are also available for sale to organisations with more regular work in intertidal areas. Built and equipped to MCA specification, together with manufacturers conformity statement from £25,000.00+VAT.

For more details, visit www.coastaltransit.services or call us on (01304) 619820


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