The negotiations with the MCA (maritime & Coastguard Agency) are moving on well, with the draft of the ‘Hovercraft Code of Practice’ submitted on November 14th and the next meeting scheduled for December. If the proposals of the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association (HMA) are accepted, then small craft such as we manufacture, will be quite usable for commercial operations, subject to adherence to a very clear set of regulations.

These regs have been written by the industry and are simple to understand and apply with a clear ‘road-map’ showing how to adhere to the necessary requirements of the new rules. Basically, the two categories that apply to the Flying Fish range of craft are as follows.

‘Ultralights’ – Up to 500kgs un-laden weight with less than 4 persons on board, engaged in commercial operations but not carrying passengers. The effective resolution here is that Ultralight craft will be basically bound by Health and Safety legislation, should be built to the standards of the Code and will be certified by the manufacturer. However, there will be but there will be no requirement for the vessel to be coded by the MCA. This does not in any way exempt the operator from gaining the necessary permits of permissions to operate from Authorities/harbourmasters etc. Petrol engines are now an acceptable option. Effectively, this allows us to supply Coastal-Pro’s for such applications as survey. geotechnics, weed, aquatic plant spraying, utility work and specialist commercial applications such a standby / safety vessels etc. Operations must be ‘supported’ and close within shore.

‘Light Hovercraft’ – Up to 1000kgs un-laden weight and less than 24m in length with up to 8 persons on board. This is the entry level for passenger operations, and allows small craft to use Petrol engines up to 175bhp within 20 miles of a safe haven. This category will allow small craft (such as our BBV500) to take passengers ‘for hire or reward’ – even the Coastal-Pro will be eligible for this category subject to more rigorous standards.

The next category up doesn’t (at present) concern us is :

‘Small Hovercraft’ – Over 1000kgs un-laden weight, under 24m in length and with less than 12 passengers within 60 miles of a safe haven.

The rules will also clarify the situation for hovercraft which are used for recreational use and driving events (such as our Marlin) and racing (such as the Cobra) I must stress though, at this stage, these are only the proposals, and some details may change but I’m pretty sure that the basic structure will be accepted for small hovercraft in commercial operations.

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