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….
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.
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.