One of the challenges of manufacturing hovercraft is that they can travel over pretty much any surface you may wish them to. So, customers can fly small hovercraft along at 40 mph on water, before flying straight over a stony beach without stopping. No other vehicle can do that! Hovercraft of all sizes owe more to aircraft construction than that of a boat or land vehicle and this means they have to be built as lightly as possible, whilst retaining enough strength to be safe and practical. Quite simply, if a hovercraft is built too heavy, it won’t work safely or well on either land or water so weight is a factor and hulls built with extra strength in the areas which take the knocks and bangs of daily usage.
This requirement dictates that small hovercraft must be built from composites such as GRP (fibreglass), Kevlar or carbon fibre type materials. Wood or aluminium makes for an ugly design, and is crude, heavy and not commercially viable. Plastics such as HDPE weigh twice as much as GRP, and no hovercraft can work properly if it’s 100% overweight (the clue is that the ‘HD’ in ‘HDPE’ stands for ‘High Density’ – ie heavy!)
Fibreglass remains the material of choice for small hovercraft production. It’s light, can be laid up in attractive shapes and has a fantastic finish quality. It’s strong for its weight, is impervious to salt-water, dirt and mud easily washes off the high gloss finish. Whilst somewhat labour intensive, fibreglass is a cost effective material which allows us to keep the price down to an affordable level. It’s preferantial to carbon fibre for this application – as it doesn’t ‘shatter’ in the way carbon fibre does if it takes an impact. The new Marlin III takes the concept even further with a 25mm foam core in the floor which adds stiffness and impact resistance.
However, hovercraft – as stated above – can be used in many and varied environments. So we incorporate a ‘core’ material within the hull to further strengthen the hovercraft, together with Kevlar (the same stuff they make bullet proof vests from!) However, crashing the craft down onto rocks, hurling it into 10ft deep gullies, thrashing it at 100% throttle everywhere – all these are unrealistic expectations of a lightweight vehicle. They’ll shorten the life of the hull and show up premature wear – in some cases, excessively hard use will invalidate the warranty. It is absolutely imperative that the servicing requirements are followed and that the craft are ‘pre-flight’ checked each time they are used. It’s all there in the user guide that we supply with our craft. In the last year, we’ve calculated that misuse or brutally hard use were a factor in 75% of all warranty claims, closely followed by poor or neglected servicing. We’ve made, sold and used over 600 Marlins and there’s not much we haven’t seen! Flying Fish craft have been improved year on year and when used and maintained properly, give very little trouble.
We’re always very fair in our administration of warranty claims and are always willing to help, advise and replace any parts which fail. However, no other vehicle can take you – theoretically at least – anywhere. A hovercraft can, but cannot ignore the laws of physics! We don’t limit where you can use your hovercraft – whereas motor manufactures exclude damage from off-road usage of any type – but expect owners to look after their craft without relying on our warranty to put right damage and misuse. Building an effective small hovercraft is full of challenges and we believe that overall, the Flying Fish range achieve more of them than any other make.
Hopefully, this sets out our design philosophy and explains a little about why looking after your craft is so important in order to enjoy trouble-free and enjoyable ownership!