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.

PREVIEW OF THE ALL NEW COASTAL PRO!

added by Emma on August 15, 2014 at 07:55

So tomorrow is preview day for the new Coastal Pro from Flying Fish. It is a massive change for Flying fish and we are so excited to show it to you. We have limited slots available tomorrow to come and view before the official launch on Monday. Call us if you want to be the first to see it!  

Brand New Coastal Pro!!! Only £11000.00 inc VAT

added by Emma on August 15, 2014 at 06:41

This is your last chance its got to go! £11000.00 inc VAT for a Black and Red Coastal pro MKI with a 35hp engine.  Call for further details! 01304 619820!

 

 

 

Do you own a Flying Fish Hovercraft?

added by Emma on August 4, 2014 at 07:34

Are you someone who already owns a Flying Fish Hovercraft? If so read on!  

 

We've made massive changes to our product range and the methods of manufacture which may be of interest to you.


THE MARLIN III 

 

The Marlin, which became the Marlin II in 2008, has now become the Marlin III. The new craft is massively improved throughout in terms of reliability, performance and finish. It features stainless steel fittings and marine spec wiring throughout, improved floatation and looks very sharp with a myriad of minor improvements.

 
HOVERCRAFT KITS


 

We now offer 'self-build' kits - making Flying Fish the only company in the UK to offer a complete component set ready for assembly. GRP Hull, assembled, new engine, steering, fan assembly etc - everything you need and includes a video build guide. Guaranteed results and an excellent resale value.


IS IT TIME TO UPGRADE?? 


Fancy moving up to a larger craft? The new Coastal-Pro is a twin-engined four-seat craft which will be launched within the next couple of weeks. Superb looks, amazing performance - contact us if you'd like to know more.


RAMPAGE ENGINE UPGRADE 

 

We now offer upgrades for the Vanguard V-Twin which powers the Marlin, which takes the power to 50bhp - at the same revs, and with no loss in reliability. It totally transforms the craft, improving hump performance, load capacity and speed - The cost for the upgrade is £1500.00 + VAT and it makes the Marlin a very sporting bit of kit!

 
SKIRT UPGRADES


 

The Phase II skirt design dramatically improves the handling of the Marlin and can be fitted to older models, segments cost £6.50 + VAT each - a full skirt is £375.00 + VAT.

We can also offer a skirt repair service for just £2.50 + vat per segment.

 

OTHER UPGRADES

We are now able to upgrade various parts to the new specification. Fuel tanks, Engine frame and even stainless steel pulleys! Call us which what you want/need and we can quote accordingly!

PART EXCHANGES  

 

Finally, Part Exchanges - if either of the new models sound interesting, we may be able to part exchange your current hovercraft against either a Coastal-Pro or Marlin III. Call or mail us and we'll give you a part exchange value.

 

If you are interested in any of the above give us a call on 01304 619820 or send us an email and we can have a chat about what you would like to do!

We have regular demo days - if you'd like to come along and try out a new Marlin or Coastal-Pro, then please call us to reserve your place!

 

Kind Regards

Russ

How to drive a hovercraft!

added by russ on July 9, 2014 at 10:48

 

If you bought your Flying Fish hovercraft from either the factory in Sandwich, or one of our distributors, then you'll have received basic training similar to what is covered in this video. If not, take a look at the video, enjoy the sunshine (it's mostly filmed in Florida!) and practice, practice, practice!

If you're enjoying the new 'How To' Hovercraft videos, don;t forget to subscribe toour channel! Click HERE

 

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

 

 

How to remove the governor from a Briggs & Stratton engine for hovercraft use.

added by russ on June 27, 2014 at 11:46

The Briggs & Stratton 35bhp motor is a superb Japanese built engine used for many applications that B&S never even thought of! Here at Flying Fish Hovercraft, we've installed many hundreds into small hovercraft and are the UK's largest buyer of these handy little power units. They've also proven themselves in Ultralight aircraft and US Swamp Boats/Mud Buddies. This video shows you the first job you'll need to do to for any dynamic application (ie not a conveyor belt or stump cutter!)

This is your first job when preparing one of these engines, strip out the engine speed controller/governor.

NOTE : If you're going on to install it using a standard Flying Fish engine frame, there is extra machining required before reassembly!

Lots more videos to follow - make sure to subscribe to our Youtube Channel so you don't miss out!

CLICK HERE :

www.flyingfishhovercraft.co.uk
01304 619820

 

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

 

 

 

 

Crushing the bad guys!

added by russ on June 18, 2014 at 09:21

 

 

#

BE CAREFUL OUT  THERE!

Looking over the information on our website recently, I realised we may be selling ourselves short. Our 'about us' page is typically wishy-washy and reads much the same as everybody else's. Time to change it I think - because be honest… I’m not sure that’s really us.

There’s no industry on earth that doesn’t contain it’s fair share of rogues, charlatans, wide-boys, dodgy-geezers and downright-thieving-bastards. Even doctors and priests get themselves locked up from time to time. And the hovercraft industry is no different to any other. In some ways, the world of hovercraft is valuable turf for fraudsters and sharp-salesman. Why? Because many people who buy hovercraft have little knowledge or experience of them and are ‘babes-in-the-woods’ when it comes to being sold to.

Two quick examples – in Australia, there’s a guy selling hovercraft who’s notorious for his (shall we say) 'sharp' practices. Three or four years back, two excited future owners of his hovercraft met at a club meeting and were describing the hovercraft they’d ordered and paid a deposit for – they’d both visited the factory over the last few weeks and seen their hovercraft in manufacture. One told the other his was black… so was the other guys….it had a Yamaha engine… so did the other guys…it was on the line being built right now and was just having its screen fitted….they’d have it in two weeks….so would the other guy.

Yup, you guessed it – they'd both been told the hovercraft they’d seen was theirs so they’d both recently paid their balances. One (or both) of them was being robbed and I can only imagine the moment when they both realised that they may have been ‘had.’ We’ve since heard two separate accounts of buyers who have had to take legal action against the same company to get deposits back for hovercraft that simply never got built. And this clown’s still in business?

 Come on Australia, grow some balls and close this idiot down!

In the UK is a company whose hovercraft truly suck. Truly, truly suck. They look great and their marketing is superb… but quite simply their hovercraft, (which is the same size as, but weighs twice as much as) the Flying Fish Marlin (itself not a lightweight racing craft by any means) cannot and does not work properly. Hovercraft aren’t magic, they can’t break the laws of physics and weight is the ultimate killer of a successful hovercraft. Yet they sell decent numbers of hovercraft - in fact they’re our closest competitor. Not one of their hovercraft have ever been seen at a UK cruising event (in fact, I’m told they ‘advise’ their customers to stay away!) as the community would probably fall around laughing if they did witness the noise/spray/20 mile range and slug-like performance from a 120bhp turbo engine(!) For ten years, we've been inviting them to come cruising, race us, offer craft up for an independent review…we're still waiting!

Ask yourself why!

Unfortunately there’s several other examples I could give such as the industry favourite, the ‘revolutionary new hovercraft’ idea – there’s one being marketed in Chicago, USA right now. Can’t work/won’t work (the only video of it in action is farcical – it’s on the end of a rope, creating a rainstorm in a pond!) but as it’s been styled to look vaguely like a Bugatti Veyron, and has no fan duct (ah, now, there’s a clue – see?) they’ve attracted a bundle of cash from naive investors and deposits from even-more-naïve buyers – the poor little lambs. But at least their $75,000.00 purchase will get them a nice looking pond ornament/garden sprinkler for the herons to shit on.

Even the government can get caught out - one UK Fire Service bought two Italian built, counterfeit copies of an US design… and guess what? They didn't work, are incredibly dangerous and basically languished in the shed for  six years - making BBC headlines when it was announced that £150,000 of taxpayers' money was wasted on them! We could have sold them two equivalent hovercraft which do work for around a third of that…

So why the rant?

Well, quite simply, our business gets damaged by the charlatans. Hovercraft manufacturing is a small industry and the problem is, when people buy a substandard hovercraft from a dubious company, what we hear is along the lines of ‘small hovercraft don’t work – I tried them.’ And that’s not fair, because if you tried the new Land Rover out and it was a dog, you wouldn’t state that '4x4’s don’t work.' We as an industry, still have some why to go to establish ourselves and the conmen and idiots do so much damage to the legitimate companies struggling to improve the image of perfectly good craft.  

So, how about that Flying Fish crowd? What do they do differently?

We get complaints occasionally – all businesses do. We’ve made silly mistakes that have been missed on the pre-delivery inspection and have been occasionally been a little late delivering. But, we do our best to sort any problems out quickly and efficiently and constantly improve what we do. We chase feedback, not avoid it, we build in reliability so that we don’t have to see your hovercraft again until its either service or upgrade time.  We don’t lie to people (I can do without the grief to be honest!) and if we don’t think a hovercraft is the best vehicle for your application, we’ll tell you. We want happy customers, an easy life and we want you singing our praises and back for more hovercraft in the future.

We have trained dealers in several overseas countries – as well as the UK. We’re formative members of the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association (HMA.) We – together with Griffon Hoverworks – pretty much wrote the 2014 MCA Hovercraft Code of Practice. We don’t take deposits for hovercraft models that we haven’t built yet. We head up cruising events for the hovercraft club (UK club members have clocked up a total of some 2000 miles at club events and private cruises in 2014 already) which constantly improves the breed. We race hovercraft which gives us enormous  amounts of information to find its way into production craft.

Above all else, we offer Money Back Guarantee – we can’t be fairer than that can we?

That’s us. That's what we do - that’s why we sell more hovercraft than any other company in the world. We aim to keep growing, both in terms of the company, and the hovercraft we manufacture.

So here’s our Top Ten Tips.

AVOIDING THE RIPOFF MERCHANTS!

1.    If you don’t know anything about them, do your research into hovercraft in general. Be sure about what they should be able to do, whether a hovercraft is what you want, how they work and join your local club. Hovercrafting is still a small (but growing) community and you can gather some very useful information and feedback.

2.    Do not pay for a hovercraft if you can’t actually see a real one exists – especially do NOT pay a deposit on a hovercraft which is only available in CGI form!

3.    Is the supplier a member of the HMA? Hovercraft Club? Chamber of Commerce? BMI?

4.    See it in action, preferably drive it, and ask to see its capabilities – as described – demonstrated. Drive more than one model before making any decisions.

5.    Ask to see videos of other – identical - craft in varied conditions (water, land, mud, one up/two up etc) and look online on Youtube specifically for the make you’re considering  – do you have plenty of confidence that WYSIWYG?

6.    Does it come with a service manual, warranty, training and registration?

7.    Does the manufacturer offer a Money Back Guarantee if the product doesn’t measure up to the  sales hype?

8.    Does the manufacturer have agents and dealers? This is a good sign that they are established and serious.

9.    Can you obtain references from dealers/customers?

10.  Ask to see photos of the build as it happens, or visit the factory. Small hovercraft should be easily completed within 4 weeks – any longer should make you nervous.

Good luck with your purchase – just be careful with your money!


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