back to article Fancy that! Craft which float over everything on a cushion of air

Did you know that the word “hovercraft” was once patented? And did you know that Great Britain is a world leader in the design and manufacture of the floaty transporters, and has been for half a century? These and other surprising facts – including that some of the largest commercial hovercraft ever to be used in revenue …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A word can be patented ?

    Yew shure ?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: A word can be patented ?

      @Bahboh

      How about skirting patents?

      https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg12316711-900-how-the-pentagon-skirted-the-patents-on-hovercraft/

      1. handleoclast

        Re: skirting patents

        Upthumbed. Repeatedly, even though it doesn't actually make a difference. But you deserve multiple upthumbs for finding an article with such an atrocious pun in the title.

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: skirting patents

          @handleoclast

          ...for finding an article with such an atrocious pun in the title.

          I came across it a few months ago when searching the New Scientist archive for something else - and when I saw that first post about patenting the name, it reminded me of this article

        2. ravenviz

          Re: skirting patents

          I hereby patent “upthumb”.

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: A word can be patented ?

      "Yew shure ?"
      " For some years from 1961 registered as a proprietary term but now in the public domain." So no, a registered trademark, not a patent. C. S. Cockerell wrote in Hovering Craft & Hydrofoil that he and his wife tried to find a name and settled for the not altogether appropriate word ‘Hovercraft’. Up until then they were called sea-saucers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A word can be patented ?

        So the question in the FIRST SENTENCE of this article was - and remains - nonsense ? :

        "Did you know that the word “hovercraft” was once patented? "

        Does The Register DO journalism ?!

        1. Uffish

          Re: A word can be patented ?

          I googled the word, (not using Google of course, no-one should use Google for googling), and found

          "Definition of patented::originated by or peculiar to one person or group :individualized".

          I rest el Reg's case M'lud.

          I also googled 'J-type aircraft sheds' (using Qwant as the googler by the way) those 'sheds' are huge.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: A word can be patented ?

            "Definition of patented::originated by or peculiar to one person or group :individualized"
            In the OED it is restricted somewhat:

            "A licence to manufacture, sell, or deal in an article or commodity, to the exclusion of other persons; in modern times, a grant from a government to a person or persons conferring for a certain definite time the exclusive privilege of making, using, or selling some new invention."

            There's also a special case for land in the USA. It's hard to see how a word can be an article, commodity or land.

            1. Uffish

              Re: A word can be patented ?

              @ Pompous Git

              Oh dear, it's dictionary wars again. Look up patented in Webster's before saying it was misused in the article. The OED is my preferred dictionary of English too but the English language is spoken the world over.

              The OED does not try to define the limits of the English language, it merely documents a large selection of it.

        2. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: A word can be patented ?

          > So the question in the FIRST SENTENCE of this article was - and remains - nonsense ? :

          > "Did you know that the word “hovercraft” was once patented? "

          Perhaps it was merely an extension of Betteridge's Law

    3. handleoclast
      Coat

      Re: A word can be patented ?

      Oh wow! Words can be patented! That's fantastic news.

      I'm gonna patent "patent troll." And then enforce the patent at every opportunity.

      The beauty of this scheme is that after the initial court cases, people are going to start calling me a patent troll. Violating my patent. Woooohoooooooooooooo!

    4. Tronald Dump

      Re: A word can be patented ?

      Shudda patented "upskirt"

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Pompous Git Silver badge
    Mushroom

    First hovercraft I saw...

    ... was a one man machine at Farnborough air show ca. 1960. I was suitably impressed. I spent a lot of time in my pre-adolescent years drawing pictures of aircraft. Mostly blowing the crap out of German aircraft.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: First hovercraft I saw...

      1959, I'm pretty sure. I was there, too.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: First hovercraft I saw...

        AC wrote: "1959, I'm pretty sure. I was there, too."

        I didn't even recognise you :-)

  4. PhilipN Silver badge

    Dover

    SRN4 used to go from their own terminal there run by Sealink, an associate of British Rail. At least believe it was the SRN4.

    Noisy buggers because as mentioned in the article all the forward propulsion was in the open upstairs (on the roof). Ergo being inside could be a bit uncomfortable. Partly also because of vibration.

    On the other hand for those liable to seasickness even on the short trip to Calais it was a godsend.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd
      Pirate

      Re: Dover

      I helped build the hoverport in 1978-9. Was there for the topping out, and the first test flights. It has been demolished now. :o(

      There was also a monster French built hovercraft, L'ingénieur Jean Bertin, which used the port.

      They were all as noisy as fuck. If the wind was blowing the wrong way, you could hear them in Folkestone, seven miles away...

      They also wallowed like pigs. There was a reason every seat had a sick bag. Also, piss poor view out of the windows.

      Great on a calm day though. Good for 60MPH+

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Dover

        They also wallowed like pigs.

        If I remember correctly they couldn't be used in anything above a Force 5 wind. I went on a school trip to France in 1977, and we were shifted to the ferry because the hovercraft couldn't be taken out. We did get the hovercraft back, but the wind and waves were still high enough to throw everyone around. Not fun when a number of kids had spent their last francs on fizzy pop and sweets...

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Dover @ Rich 11

          "... the wind and waves were still high enough to throw everyone around. Not fun when a number of kids had spent their last francs on fizzy pop and sweets..."

          Almost the same here, only it was going to France on the hovercraft, and probably 1976, but the memory of sitting next to a classmate who had scoffed two packets of strawberry Chewits before boarding has never faded. Vomit should not be violent pink and smell like that ...

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Dover

        Noisy as fuck? Well, they *were* powered by the Proteus...

      3. Paul

        Re: Dover

        About 45 years ago, I guess, I was 5, and my family went to France. The weather was terrible, and they nearly cancelled the crossing. I recall the hovercraft bouncing around, a waiter trying to serve drinks, and lots of people looking very sick and trying not to throw up. I was young enough to think it all great!

        I have no idea which machine we went on, but it was probably one of the larger ones as we had our car onboard - they had to chain the cars down!

        1. Steve the Cynic

          Re: Dover

          My own experience of hovercraft includes three:

          * Some time in the earlier part of the 70s, when there was a tourist-y hovercraft service on the Thames in London, including drinks served.

          * Sometime a bit later in the 70s, an SR-N6 on the Solent, where there were NOT drinks served owing to a lack of 30mph speed limit coupled with a lively response to sea state.

          * 1996 at a bash to celebrate the initial release of our new ATM switch. The company threw a big party and among the activities for a bunch of hardware and software engineers were:

          ** Blindfolded driving a Land Rover with its steering geared backwards (turn the wheel inside left to turn the wheels outside right) and the other team members calling directions.

          ** Archery

          ** laser clay pigeon shooting

          ** AND, the prize one for me, little one-man hovercraft that we could drive.

          And yes, all the comments here about turning are correct. You turn the rudders and the craft rotates on its axis. Actually following a curved path takes a little longer. And left to themselves, if the ground isn't level, they drift downhill.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Dover

      In the film "Diamonds are Forever", Seaspeed SRN4 Princess Margaret is seen leaving Dover Hoverport. This is at the start of the film where Bond takes the place of Peter Franks

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y79O2Q0eO5k

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dover

      Oh, I remember the noise, but the most impressive part was the vibration. I think that was because the props had pretty long drive shafts. That said, when the weather was good this thing would cross like greased wombats. One moment you're moving upwards on the ground when the skirts fill and it lifts off, the next you're crossing the edge at already quite a clip.

      I rather enjoyed it, less so when the weather was rough, worse when it was so rough you got diverted to the ferry which at that point was naturally very (ferry?) sick bag encouraging..

      The hydrofoils are not quite as much fun, but probably a bit more fuel efficient.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dover

        but the most impressive part was the vibration

        Not for me. Being on the beach at Calais waiting for the hover, and seeing an SRN4 come up off the water from fairly short range is one of the most impressive things I've ever seen. The sheer size of the bugger, and the way it treats land and water with equal disregard, like some sort of enormous sea monster.

        The noise was just a bonus.

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Dover

          @Ledswinger

          The sheer size of the bugger, and the way it treats land and water with equal disregard, like some sort of enormous sea monster.

          The noise was just a bonus.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8I3aK5A13U

        2. Not also known as SC

          Re: Dover

          Having a Belgian wife I had to travel over the channel numerous times during the 90s. I must have travelled on the hovercraft on at least ten didn't occasions. I saw the hovercraft depart and arrive many more times as the Ostend Ferry left from the adjacent berth in the Western Docks. When the hovercraft was decommissioned a little bit of something died. They were, as others said, incredibly noisy but they were just pure awesome. Seeing the propellers kick into life, the skirt inflating and the rush into the sea is something I'll never forget. I hope that the SRN4 hovercraft is preserved in our collective memory in the same way as the Vulcan bomber is.

          1. Anonymous IV
            Headmaster

            Re: Dover

            Hovercrafts weren't all wine and roses: in 1985 the Princess Margaret hit the breakwater at the entrance to Dover Harbour in high winds, killing four people and injuring over 50 of the 370 passengers. The hovercraft captain lost his job...

            UPI report - note that this says only two died, which I think is incorrect.

            More photos of the Princess Margaret and some technical data.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dover

      Noisy - Check

      Crap View - Check, even with a front row seat.

      I had the pleasure of riding one of these things to Calais on a "French Flyer" which if memory serves me right was either 4 or 8 quid to go to Calais get your duty free beer and cigs and back. You could even get a temporary passport from the post office if you didn't have one.

    5. David Given
      Thumb Up

      Re: Dover

      As a very small geek I visited Dover sometime pre 1985, and I have photographic evidence to prove it:

      https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByWQADzU1i2wX1JIX09SSVNsYTg/view?usp=sharing

      I can't imagine anyone would have trusted me with a camera back then so the blurriness of the photo probably isn't my fault, but it still makes it impossible to make out the name or the registration in the front. It looks like the pictures of one of the SRN4 on WIkipedia.

      What particular strikes me looking at the picture today is the way it's driving along the concrete apron with people randomly wandering about taking photos. Basic safety: we've heard of it...

    6. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Dover

      "On the other hand for those liable to seasickness even on the short trip to Calais it was a godsend."

      Er, no - not in rough seas, if sat at the front.

      I did, and am not prone to seasickness, but with a 6-12 ft swell, and people lifting out of their seats as the nose dipped up and down, I did puke, as did everyone else in there.

      I was about 12 though.

      the secret, I found out on the return trip, was to sit near the rear. a bit more noisy, but more level...

  5. Tim99 Silver badge

    You spoil us

    Hovercraft, and eels published within a few minutes : Monty Python.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: You spoil us

      @Tim99

      Ministre des transport Madame Barabara Chateau * inspecting SRN4 production at Cowes.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSM2HuEPmUM

      The Saunders-Roe factory building still exists, along with the Union Flag from the days of the British Hovercraft Corporation

      https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/3116332

      * as referred to in Prime Minister's Speech To The French. Tim Brooke-Taylor(?) as Harold Wilson in "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again" http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00t9zpz ~12:35

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: You spoil us

        Film about the flag, during the gloriously optimistic 2012 Olympic year shortly before the country collectively lobotomised itself.

        As it is ancient film and archive material it requires old technology to play it: Flash.

      2. Mike Richards

        Re: You spoil us

        What a shame a Saunders Roe Princess didn't survive along with the building - a 150 tonne, 67m wingspan, ten engined flying boat.

        A stupidly big seagoing Brabazon of a plane - but what a fantastic beast:

        https://youtu.be/AV1eUeo27tc

        Saunders Roe were clearly sniffing something, because they then proposed the Duchess - a swept-wing jet flying boat for the the London - Australia route:

        https://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1950/1950%20-%200863.html

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: You spoil us

          Not to mention the SR 177, which could have seen service as an interceptor aircraft, had Lockheed not bribed a bunch of people to buy the F-104 Starfighter instead. We could have had combined jet / rocket powered aircraft, perhaps this would have led to the development of a hybrid engine sooner? We can dream.

    2. Fat-Boy-R-Dee

      Re: You spoil us

      Ninja'd, but thought I'd post the link anyway. Yes, you do spoil us, and yes, I see what you did there.

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/09/15/scientist_zaps_himself_electric_eel/

  6. hekla
    Pint

    I built one at uni

    I built a hovercraft as part of my engineering degree, they are an interesting machine but physics is not kind to them.

    They have a problem going up hills (similar to trains) as low as an 6% slope will stop them and they are very noisy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I built one at uni

      They have a problem going up hills (similar to trains) as low as an 6% slope will stop them

      With enough thrust that won't be a problem, although controlling it on a non-flat slope could be a bundle of laughs.

      and they are very noisy.

      Never mind the noise. More thrust! More thrust!

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: I built one at uni

        Its not lack of thrust that stops them going up-hill (or down) its the fact the skirt collapses and takes away the lift so they just stick in the ground - More thrust will just make more noise (good) and stick them deeper into the ground (bad). You can alleviate this somewhat with multiple skirt pockets but that makes it harder to move on the flat!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I built one at uni

          I definitely built a model hovercraft like the first ones in my school days in the early 1960s - possibly two. An Airfix kit and one made of balsa. As I couldn't afford a diesel engine then the latter was unpowered.

          There was a more recent charity shop buy of one that would fly. I possibly gave it to another charity shop after the neighbours' youngsters expressed no interest in having it.*** Although it might still be in my "interesting toys" box.

          ***The only things that are guaranteed to take their fancy, both boys and girls, are fast R/C cars - and water guns. Electrical, electronic, and computer controlled devices seem to have no attraction - apart from them admiring my Halloween effects. ... but no query as to "how do you do that?"

      2. Fink-Nottle

        Re: I built one at uni

        > a non-flat slope

        Ahh, yes. The worst kind of slope.

        In cases like that, what you need is a Rockwell encabulator.

  7. Daniel B.
    Boffin

    I remember them

    First learned about them thanks to Quest magazine, which showcased how they worked. Though I had seen them in the Snoopy feature where the Peanuts gang goes to France. Back then, the magazine was also talking about a huge engineering feat: the construction of the Chunnel.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: I remember them

      Hah, found the other person who collected those? :)

    2. Trumpet Winsock

      Re: I remember them

      The Chunnel!

      I used to arrive at work every day before the boss, pop into his office and phone the dedicated Channel Tunnel construction line to hear a recorded announcement giving the progress of the North and South running tunnels IIRC.

      It was only a couple of months ago that I got to travel on Eurostar from Bruxelles to London. Unfortunately I was that knackered that I fell asleep shortly after leaving Bruxelles and when I awoke we were in England so I never got to see the fish ;-)

  8. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

    Falklands hovercraft

    During the late 60's, Naval Party 8902 operated a pair of SRN6 hovercraft in the Falklands as part of the garrison.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    I think they are very tricky to steer.

    Low friction with whatever they are going over. High inertia of vehicle. So you can spin the vehicle on its axis, but it's still going in the original direction, but facing backward.

    That said. All terrain vehicle. Propulsion can be be enclosed. Goes up hill with enough power (or maybe a front winch ?) so quite attractive to the military and (in theory) farmers whose fields are liable to flooding.

    Generically hovercraft are "low flying aircraft" using the "ground effect" like the infamous (and even noiser) "Caspian sea monster." Ground effect is (loosely) the aerodynamic equivalent of the electromagnetic "near field" of lens or antenna, extending roughly to an aircraft wing span. Cockrell through "Why not create an artificial ground effect?" Today "air pads" are probably most used to move big stuff (like the F9 rocket) around factories with little effort.

    1. Tim Hines

      Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

      They should have used a classic game of Asteroids to practice :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

      Does anybody know if someone has tried to use an under water propeller for traction and steering of a hovercraft when on water? That could give incredible performance and response, like a hydrofoil without the skis.

      Not much use over land, I'll grant you.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

        "Does anybody know if someone has tried to use an under water propeller for traction and steering of a hovercraft when on water? "

        An interesting thought, something like a retractable jet ski ducted prop would definitely make a difference to steering. Retractable for when on land obviously.

        I remember in the early '60s seeing the SR-N1 on the back of a Scammell, stuck on a roundabout on the A3 near Guildford, my Dad told us it was on it's way down to the Solent so the Duke of Edinburgh could play with it.

        I am fairly sure the Israelis bought a couple of the same model the Royal Marines used, for a Naval Rapid Response Force and the Yanks have this ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVYhu8M2y18

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

          I am fairly sure the Israelis bought a couple of the same model the Royal Marines used, for a Naval Rapid Response Force and the Yanks have this

          I rather like the big Russian attack hovercraft. Only ever seen it in myself under construction in St Petersburg. I don't suppose we'll ever know if they were a credible military asset, but great for showing off to the tourists.

          Now, wouldn't you like one of those?

          1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

            "I don't suppose we'll ever know if they were a credible military asset"

            Probably more of a cool toy. But China is buying them up for some reason.

            www.asian-defence.net/2014/04/china-to-get-former-greek-zubr.html

            https://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/Hovercraft-From-Hell-6-23-2011.asp

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

              But China is buying them up for some reason.

              A bit odd, I'll grant you. Normal approach for China is buy a handful (which they already have, here) and then just copy it.

              1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

                Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

                Chinese have expressed their intent to come up with an improved Zubr design. Greek ones were probably on sale with an affordable pricetag, so why not buy them.

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

                "Normal approach for China is buy a handful (which they already have, here) and then just copy it."

                That's exactly what they are doing. They have licensed the design but bought working ones too,

                1. imanidiot Silver badge

                  Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

                  Even the Chinese aren't stupid. Why build new ones if you can buy existing frames on the cheap?

              3. Mike Richards

                Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

                They'll then claim to have just discovered a Ming Dynasty wall painting showing one which proves China invented the hovercraft.

          2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

            This article covers some intended uses of smaller US craft

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landing_Craft_Air_Cushion

            Russian Zubr seems to be too grandiose to be practical. But it's way cooler.

      2. x 7

        Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

        "Does anybody know if someone has tried to use an under water propeller for traction and steering of a hovercraft when on water? That could give incredible performance and response, like a hydrofoil without the skis."

        yes - the Vosper-Thorneycroft VT-3

        Designed, but dunno if it was ever built

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I think they are very tricky to steer.

      "[...] so quite attractive to the military and (in theory) farmers whose fields are liable to flooding."

      A LandRover conversion.

  10. Martin 59

    Nostalgia

    That article brought back memories. My first overseas holiday as a boy was to France, travelling on a Seaspeed SRN4. The names Princess Anne and Princess Margaret were both names I remembered from such holidays and as I got older they served as transport for many a booze cruise.

    I also remember the French N500 that Seaspeed used and how unreliable they were. Talking to a stewardess whilst waiting to board (the hovercraft not the stewardess) she assured me from experience that if it breaks down in the middle of the Channel it will float for at least half an hour, which is how long it had taken them to get it going again.

    Both the SRN4 and the N500 were boarded by driving across the huge concrete slab on which it had landed and then up a steep metal ramp into the car desk. The N500 ramp was steeper and it was not possible to go over the top in a Ford Granada MkII with four blokes, a boot full of beer, and many more crates bungeed to a roof-rack. To avoid bottoming-out all four of us had to get out and walk alongside whilst I hopped along with my left foot gently on the accelerator (it was an automatic) ready to jump in once we were over. I'm sure that we would never get away with doing that nowadays, but back then the "ground crew" just watched, shaking their heads; probably thinking that the savings in booze will never pay for the new set of shock-absorbers I'll need after driving home.

    1. Martin 59

      Re: Nostalgia

      Reply to my own comment - I must have mis-remembered the steep ramp story because I've just read that the N500 was scrapped in 1985, before I bought the car in question. It would have been an SRN4.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, very glorious past.

  12. DJV Silver badge

    The one I remember best...

    ...was driven by the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) in the Sea Devils (1972). Pic further down the page on this site:

    https://georgesjournal.org/2013/03/17/tardis-party-whos-birthday-2-rare-but-brilliant-images-from-doctor-who-1970s/

    1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The one I remember best...

      Thats's the one driven by Pertwee in the whole episode 2 "Chase" sequence from Planet of The Spiders, which was basically JP's bucket list of things to "have a go on" on the show before he left.

      The Doctor & The Master were rescued by something like this in the sea devils, which The Master having faked a heart attack\death & then promptly nicked at the end of the story (https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2962s6).

      https://i.ytimg.com/vi/5DKKgZ_R2cg/maxresdefault.jpg

      I'll get me coat, hat & long scarf.

      PS Also took the hovercraft from IOW - Portsmouth (& back second crossing was rougher) as a kid on family holiday, a day with my father & sister seeing the "wet delights" of Portsmouth & HMS Victory.

  13. Juan Inamillion

    Ahem.. This is probably a stupid thought. Steerable jets?

    Has anybody tried using steerable jets for propulsion (not lift)?

    I went on the Ramsgate hovercraft once (a long time ago obvs). The noise, the buffeting and the windows just covered in spray I remember very well. Surprisingly I didn't get sea sick (I usually do). Fantastic to have done it though.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: Ahem.. This is probably a stupid thought. Steerable jets?

      Few posts upthread, Chris G posted this link

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVYhu8M2y18

      and it shows US LCAC manouvering around with steering jets. Main thrust comes as usual from propellers.

  14. Korev Silver badge
    Go

    RNLI too

    The RNLI operate some Hovercraft Lifeboats too.

  15. AJ MacLeod

    Weird timing

    For some reason I developed an interest in hovercraft at the start of this week after realising they are the one form of transport I knew almost nothing about.

    There's something really fascinating about seeing a large craft, apparently stranded on land, rise up and zoom off across water, ice, mud etc.

    Unfortunately now I really want a shot of one but don't know anyone who owns a working one... I mustn't watch any more of those YouTube videos of that homebuilt Finnish craft in case I'm tempted to think building my own might be a good idea!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Weird timing

      The little ones are great fun to drive. There's a place near Reading that have a couple you can race. Went there for a stag do.

      Doing a sort of handbrake turn is the easiest way to steer, though not terribly useful, unless you want to do a full 180. It took quite a bit of practice to be able just go left a little bit.

      Oh, and very noisy. Didn't vibrate as much as the old cross Channel ones did though.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Weird timing

        The small ones are steered mostly by shifting the weight left and right, combined with "powerslide" steering. Aim with the rudder and lean the way you want to go BEFORE entering the turn, then control the rate of direction change with the throttle.

        I've actually flown a home-built hovercraft in university. Sadly it was a bit overweight, making it a pig to control. All of the inertia, and only small amounts of control. (fastest it's ever moved is a tad over 64 km/h according to a smartphone GPS. Which was all I or anyone else ever had the balls for. Stopping involved either coming off the throttle VERY gently and dragging the ass over the ground or turning around and thrusting to slow down while blind to where you were going. Releasing the throttle too far however meant the front of the skids dug into the ground and you'd be launched over the steering wheel.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Weird timing

      http://www.hovercraft.org.uk/ might help you find someone who will let you have a go.

  16. Amorous Cowherder
    Happy

    I remember my Mum, Dad and me heading to the Belgium Grand Prix in '76, I was 5 at the time and distinctly remember being absolutely terrified of the hovercraft ( with British Rail logo on the tail! ). In the dusty family albums are some shots of my Dad holding me, trying to calm me down with one of those big deep blue beasts in the background.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At least you can comfort yourself now with the fact that you saw one of the mighty beasts before they were gone.

      For those not lucky enough to have seen the SRN-4 in the flesh, the pictures don't do it the slightest bit of justice. But some the Youtube vids do - search them, get them up, punch full screen, turn the volume up until somebody complains (and then a bit more).

      Which made me think. What (ignoring snarky whiners' "humour") is our heritage of tomorrow? I remember Deltics, SRN-4s, Concorde, Chieftain tanks, Nimrods, a whole host of classic military aircraft (Canberra, Lightning, Hunter, Vulcan, Victor, Harrier). But what is there now that we will be able to say to our kids "Eee, lad, that were great British engineering, that were!".

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        " But what is there now that we will be able to say to our kids "Eee, lad, that were great British engineering, that were!".

        Better save some Colin Furze videos!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't forget the iconic LandRover, Range Rover, and Mini. When different models/makes of cars were instantly distinguishable by their appearance.

        I was fortunate to own an example of all three in my younger days: LR 86" Series I; RR Series A; Mini-moke 998cc (mini wheels). All fun in their own specialised way. The LR could be started with a starting handle. The RR was equipped with one but was impossible to use; the Minimoke didn't need one - you could push it by scooting along the side and jump in when it fired.

      3. Mike Richards

        It won't be convenient to point at - but Crossrail is pretty astonishing engineering as was the Thames Barrier.

        Fingers crossed perhaps we can add Skylon to that list one day.

  17. Christian Berger Silver badge

    I think I've first heard of hovercrafts as a child on Austrian TV

    Austrian TV channel ORF1 had this wonderful Australian programme, and I think this is the exact part of it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIjYIPoE4_E

    Of course it was dubbed, but since Australia also uses PAL, it didn't have to go through an expensive format change.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hovertravel's new craft taken out of service

    After experiencing numerous problems and failures with the new Griffon craft Solent Flyer and Island Flyer, Hovertravel withdrew them from service on the Southsea to Ryde route last week and had to revert to using their predecessors which are 27 and 32 years old.

    http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/Hovertravel-pulls-10-million-hovercraft-from-service-316408.aspx

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      AP-188

      The "old" Hovertravel craft are the BHC AP-188

      The Canadian Coast Guard have several AP-188 variants, mostly well-decks locally manufactured under licence. They are used for in multiple roles, including ice-breaking.

      http://www.marineinsight.com/videos/watch-canadian-coast-guards-hovercraft-breaking-river-ice

  19. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Fascinating to know it's so worth a visit!

    I work near there, Gosport and Lee-on-Solent are where I work most days... I have of course seen the museum, but the entrance from Marine Parade doesn't show the size of the place...... this article has jogged my memory, I'll be visiting!

  20. PhilipN Silver badge

    Video history

    Don’t think anyone posted this link yet :

    https://youtu.be/Inog40YZcYs

    Various interesting items such as the skirt was not part of the original design but made all the difference when it came to real world use

  21. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6QW8Usp94A

    Bad audio, but I don't have a copy of the "Songs For Singing Islanders" EP and so cannot make a better (and illegal) YouTube recording myself.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hovertrain at Railworld

    Just spotted this on the BBC News site:

    Hovertrain prototype RTV31 at the Railworld museum in Peterborough

    http://www.railworld.net/rtv31.php

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-cambridgeshire-41268817/museum-in-bid-to-preserve-1960s-uk-hovertrain

  23. Nicko
    Thumb Up

    Built one (or two)...

    When I were but a lad at school in SE London, a group of us tried to build a two-man hovercraft powered by (ISTR) a Vauxhall Viva engine, It wasn't very good - too heavy, even with the tubular chassis welded by the metalwork/DT teacher, Terry Kent. The chassis was too flexible and even with one schoolboy in it, it wasn't practical.

    We subsequently built one or two (can't remember) single-person smaller craft powered by motorcycle engines. Lift fans were laboriously constructed out of beaten sheet aluminium and a huge number of pop-rivets (which meant that they weren't balanced very well) - thrust was from a commercial small prop. These were "OK" and were flown around the playing fields at the back of the DT workshops...

    Sometimes wondered what happened to those...

  24. YARR

    This is just down the road from the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport which is worth a visit to make a day of it.

    So were these hovercraft operated by Network Rail at one time, given the logo they once had on he tail?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      My Wikipedia trail says Seaspeed (founded 1965) was a subsidiary of British Rail and SNCF, it merged with commercial rival Hoverlloyd (founded 1966) in 1981 to create Hoverspeed, that got ate up by Norfolkline in 2005 (HQ in The Netherlands), and that got ate up by DFDS Seaways in 2010 (Danish).

      The Seaspeed logo wasn't just a copy of the British Rail logo, but a mirror image.

      Nowadays the logo belongs to National Rail and is a state asset, at this point you may feel free to sob into your beer about how state assets have declined. The coup-de-grace will be the logo being redesigned by a strategy boutique at great expense with the aid of joss-sticks and whalesong.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Alert

        @Dan 55

        Nowadays the logo belongs to National Rail and is a state asset...

        You mean to say we have a state asset left? I thought they were all flogged off for little or no benefit to the public

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Not 'Network Rail'

      but BR - Good old turned up at the corner sandwiches, let the train take the strain - British Railways.

      They even had some decent hotels at one point in time. Stayed at the one at St Pancras when I were a nipper. We took the Thames-Clyde express to Glasgow the next morning. Still Steam halued for part of the journey.

      Yes, that dates me.

    3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Hovercraft and submarine museums

      The thick end of 25 years ago I stayed with a friend who was a doctor in the Navy, and lived in Hampshire. She had both of these museums on the itinerary for my visit - trust me, you need to make more than "a day" of it - a day for each is recommended (at least ...)

  25. macjules Silver badge

    Err ..

    By the way. The film featuring hovercraft is Die Another Day, not Tomorrow Never Dies, and they are Osprey 5 MKII hovercraft.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Die Another Day

      In addition to the Osprey 5s, the film featured a larger craft - For filming, they had 2 (IIRC Slingsbys), and both were refurbished by Griffon Hovercraft (later to be part of Griffon Hoverwork).

      The film credits include "Hovercraft Pilots" - John Gifford (at the time the owner and MD of Griffon) and Robert Trussler, Griffon Hovercraft Pilot (and ex HCGB F1 champion in his younger days)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TRUMO

    This STIRRY REMONDS me of DANUKD trump (Petus). Except HE FLUTS ON a Cusiohn of LOVE AND IDEAZ from HIS GOOD LADY MANBAG and HIS LOVELY DORTA IBIZA and SUN IN LORE jaded. This IS Y AMORICA loves DONALD except the BITTA ONES HU thank HOLLRPARY should've Won. Except she DIDNT. I ATE 10 Kirsty KREME donuts AND PLAYED WITH NY BUG GUN SI I am feeling Gud. I AM NIT NAKKID.

  27. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    RMB Chivenor

    RMB Chivenor operate hovercraft. A couple of years ago me and a friend had a stand up paddle board session down the Taw. It was nice and serene until the Marines got their toys out, and tore up and down in their hovercraft. Head on, they are fairly quiet, but then they turn, and you hear the thrust in it's full glory.

  28. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
    Pint

    LOVE these articles.

    More like them, please. At some point I will visit my ancestral homeland in the north (Argyll) and will set aside plenty of time to travel the region for such local lovelies as this, the RAF museum, the Postal Railway, etc. You are saving me enormous amounts of research, for which I am grateful. Cheers!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rather interesting use of Hovercraft

    https://www.amazon.com/Source-Yangtze-Dick-Bell/dp/034053852X

    Where a British expedition went up to the source of the Yangtze using a hovercraft. They also navigated the full length of the Yangtze using that hovercraft, becoming the first people to do so. Very cool: I went to a lecture by Squadron Leader Michael Cole in the early 90s set up at my University Air Squadron whilst I was studying.

  30. sean.fr

    Hard wall hovercraft

    There was vehicle popularly known as a hard wall hovercraft. Basically it was boat that blew air through the skin to make an air film between the boat and water. I remember seeing them at Calais after the real hovercraft left and before the Seacat Hydrofoil arrived. Not found in Google. Does anyone else rember them?

  31. Archivist

    All the eels have left

    It was full!

  32. james swiers

    i can float on a cushion of air after a good curry if you know what i mean

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