The museum has a large collection of over sixty hovercraft of various designs, including the last two remaining SR.N4 (Saunders-Roe Nautical 4; built by the British Hovercraft Corporation (BHC)) craft, the largest civil hovercrafts ever built. Both (GH-2006 Princess Margaret and GH-2007 Princess Anne) have been laid up there since their retirement from cross-Channel services in 2000.
BHC was formed by the merger of Saunders-Roe and Vickers Supermarine in 1966. Designed to carry 254 passengers in addition to a four-lane automobile bay which held up to 30 cars; the SR.N4s had operated services across the English Channel since 1968, until the abolition of duty-free made their service unprofitable.
The Royal Navy once considered a mine sweeping version of the SR.N4, hovercraft being almost invulnerable to mines, but it never got further than the concept stage.
The first incarnation was 40 metres (131 ft) long, weighed 190 long tons (193 t), and could cruise at over 60 knots (111 km/h) Top speed 83 knots (154 km/h). The journey time, Dover to Boulogne, was roughly 35 minutes, with six trips a day at peak times. +
Mountbatten Class Hovercraft SRN4; last day of service (01 October 2000)
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A number of hovercraft manufacturers have deposited their complete archives at the museum, in addition to a large collection of original manufacturers’ models and the world’s first working hovercraft model built by Christopher Cockerell. The SR.N4 hovercraft GH2008 Sir Christopher was named after its inventor.
SR.N4 on wikipedia
Although incredibly noisy and thirsty for fuel, record breaking crossings in under half an hour had become possible. The mid 1970s was the golden age of the hovercraft. By the end of 1974 nearly one and half million people a year going were going across the Channel by hovercraft, nearly a third of all passenger traffic.
Sadly, the oil crisis of the early seventies made the cost of fueling these extraordinary vessels sky rocket, and after a reign of over three decades they had become unprofitable to run. By 1994, The Channel Tunnel had successfully captured the largest share of Cross-Channel traffic. +
Service began on 6 April 1966 using small, passenger only SR.N6 hovercraft. Crossing (‘flight’) times were typically 40 minutes between Ramsgate and Calais, which compared favourably with crossing times of 90 to 100 minutes for the traditional ferries on similar routes.
Operations were prone to disruption and cancellation during bad weather, although this was eased over time by various modifications.
GH-2004 Swift; broken up in 2004 at the Hovercraft Museum
GH-2005 Sure 1968; broken up in 1983 for spare parts
GH-2054 The Prince of Wales; scrapped in 1993 due to electrical fire
GH-2008 Sir Christopher 1972; broken up 1998 for spare parts
Hoverlloyd on wikipedia
1950s – Dr WILLIAM BARTELSON, a country doctor in America devised and built a series of ‘air cars’, which he called ‘Ground Effect Machines’, in order to get around the problem of visiting patients in the more waterlogged parts of his practice. He, and other enthusiasts, were beaten to the patent punch in England by CHRISTOPHER COCKERELL, who was, after years of intense British indifference, credited as the inventor of the hovercraft.
Cockerell approached various aircraft and ship building firms with his idea, but no one wanted to know, because no one could decide what his invention actually WAS. Men at the Ministry immediately slapped a ‘Top Secret’ label on it. After learning other countries were interested in its development, they finally took notice.
The invention was eventually allocated to Saunders Roe, (flying boat manufacturers) to develop in conjunction with the National Research Development Corporation. Finally, in May 1959 the SRN1 (Saunders Roe Nautical 1) flew for the first time.
British United Airways V.A-3 Hovercraft – offered world’s first hovercraft passenger service, which operated between Rhyl, North Wales, over to Wallasey on the Wirral. The photograph was taken in 1962, and shows the Vickers VA-3 registered G-15-253. The cruising speed was 60mph, and could carry 24 passengers.
1960s: The Decade of the Hovercraft
In the ’60s the hovercraft went from being a garden sized flying cup and saucer (the SRN1 was also known as ‘the Flying Saucer’) to a cross-channel passenger and car ferry giant.
These were the years when hovercraft were ‘cool’, and often reported as ‘an exciting new form of transport that will revolutionize the way we travel’.
This was when the classic designs came forth. They were aircraft technology vehicles. +
Experimental Hovercraft SRN1 during trials by the Royal Navy c.1963
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SR.N1 was the first practical hovercraft. Built by Saunders-Roe on the Isle of Wight under the auspices of the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC). First flight was on 11 June 1959 in front of the assembled press showing its capability to cross both land and water.
On 25 July 1959, the SR.N1 serial G-12-4 crossed the English Channel from Calais to Dover in just over two hours. +
SR.N5 (also Bell SK-5) used in Vietnam – medium-sized hovercraft which first flew in 1964, and was the first production-built hovercraft in the world. Fourteen SR.N5s were built, seven of them by Bell Aerosystems under licence in the United States as the Bell SK-5 for military use. Three Bell SK-5s saw service with the United States Navy in Vietnam during the late 1960s.
The Canadian Coast Guard used an SR.N5 for rescue and survey work for 20 years
Seaspeed operated two routes using SR-N6’s – Cowes to Southampton and Cowes to Portsmouth Harbour. The terminals at Cowes and Southampton were on land while the Portsmouth harbour terminal was a pontoon alongside the IW ferry terminal at the end of the station.
The Cowes/Portsmouth service operated from April 1967 until September 1969.
Solent Express at speed between Southsea and Ryde
photo by Ian Boyle, 24th August 2008 (larger)
Hovertravel: Since its inauguration, more than twenty-one million passengers have travelled the short distance between Ryde and Southsea with Hovertravel, which remains one of only two scheduled year-round hovercraft services in the world.
The amphibious nature of the vessels enabled the public to travel directly into and out of Ryde town by sea for the first time, without having to trek ½-mile to the end of Ryde Pier. At low tide, the sea recedes right out to the end of the pier, so conventional ferries have never been able to dock in town.
In 1965 the average hovercraft crossing over the Solent took approximately 8 minutes from land to land. Forty years later, Hovertravel is still the fastest cross-Solent service.
The SR.N6 was a larger version of the earlier SR.N5 series. It quickly became the most produced and successful hovercraft design in the world. The SR.N6 class is capable of carrying 55 fully equipped troops, or 6 tons of equipment.
The original prototype SR.N6 Mk.1 (009) is currently on display at the Hovercraft Museum in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England. With 22,000 hours of service over a twenty-year period it is the world’s most extensively operated hovercraft.
SR.N6 on wikipedia
Versuchsgleitboot c. 1916
Who Really Invented the Hovercraft?
Many people probably assume that the hoverboat was invented recently. The hoverboat was actually developed at the advent of the First World War, not too long after the first airplane.
The man who invented the hovercraft, Dagobert MÃ¼ller von Thomamuehl, was the commander of a boat in the Austro-Hungarian navy.
Unlike modern hovercraft, the Versuchsgleitboot had skirts only at the sides, not at front or back. The engine creating the air cushion was located towards the front of the boat and was capable of lifting the boat up to 10 inches off the water’s surface.
MÃ¼ller’s designs suggested a top speed of 32 knots, which was quite fast for ships of the day…
more on Axis History Forum
The Hovercraft tank, or, officially, the amphibious hovering tank, was developed in a Moscow aircraft plant in 1937.
Two M-25 aircraft engines, producing 1450 hp altogether, propelled two airscrews, which were mounted inside vertical tunnels at bow and stern parts of the hull. The design documentation stipulated that the vehicle, weighting 8,5 ton, would hover at 200–250 mm above water or ground surface and travel at 120 km/h. Cornering was achieved by means of louvers, which regulated the flow of air.
It never progressed beyond the mockup stage.
“CALL them air cars. Call them ground effect vehicles. Or call them air cushion sleds. But, above all, call them experimental. Here is the full story – – what makes them go, the problems they face and what their future looks like…”
The first craft in the series was built by Britten Norman in 1960 as “The Cushioncraft”
above: The CC2 – Originally designed without a skirt and using air deflection within the cushion for propulsion, the CC2 first flew in September 1961.
Cushioncraft Ltd was a British engineering company, formed in 1960 as a division of Britten-Norman Ltd (manufacturer of aircraft) to develop/build hovercraft.
Between 1960 and 1972 Cushioncraft designed 6 models of which 5 were produced.
In 1971, Britten-Norman encountered financial problems, and one result was that the Cushioncraft company was sold in 1972 to the British Hovercraft Corporation.
BBC On This Day: 1966: Hovercraft deal opens show (video)
The VT1-001 converted for full amphibious operation.
Handed to Royal Navy for trials 3rd April 1979
The company was nationalised by the Labour Government in 1977, becoming a division of British Shipbuilders. It became a commercial company again after a management buyout in 1985.
In 2001, in their most ambitious diversification project, VT started work on the US $55 million superyacht Mirabella V for former Avis Rent-a-Car boss Joe Vittoria. At the time of its completion in 2004, Mirabella V was the world’s largest single-masted sailing vessel with an overall length of 75 metres and a mast height of approximately 87 metres. +
Destroyer or Torpedo Boat under construction c.1890s
History of Vosper Thornycroft Shipbuilders Woolston
The 16-year-old Thornycroft, helped only by his younger sister, began to build his first small steam launch in 1859 in his father’s back garden. After completing an apprenticeship in Glasgow in 1864, he set to work.
The first prototype of what would go on to become the torpedo boat, followed by the HMS Lightning for the Royal Navy in 1877, were built at Church Wharf in Chiswick.
After relocating to Woolston, Hampshire, Thornycrofts built the first Tribal-class destroyer HMS Tartar in 1909.
Following the 1928 death of John Isaac Thornycroft, operations were taken over by his son, John Edward Thornycroft .
The first Assault Landing Craft (ALC), later renamed Landing Craft Assault (LCA), ordered for the British Navy were produced by Thornycroft.
Designated ALC No 2, it was 41 ft 6 in long over all and driven by two Ford V8 engines of 65 bhp each. Some 1,929 were built during World War II. Bn 1944, sixty were being built each month.
The LCA was reasonably seaworthy, so long as waves were less than 5 ft high. In heavy seas the situation could become critical and a number of LCAs disappeared in the choppy seas of D-Day, 6 June 1944.
(above) N300 Naviplane; France c. 1969
(below) N500; c. 1978
more on blenheimgang (French)
N500 Naviplane was a French hovercraft built by SEDAM (SociÃ©tÃ© d’Etude et de DÃ©veloppement des AÃ©roglisseurs Marins) for the cross channel route. It was, for a while, the largest hovercraft afloat, but only two were ever built. The first was destroyed by a fire on May 3, 1977 before entering service, the second proved unreliable and was broken up in 1985.
It could transport 400 passengers, 55 cars and 5 buses. It was also one of the fastest and reached a speed record for a travel from Boulogne to Dover at an average speed of 74 knots (137 km/h). +
more on Les Naviplanes (in French)
Thursday, June 3, 1999
UK Hovercraft ‘genius’ dies
The inventor of the hovercraft, Sir Christopher Cockerell (right) has died on the 40th anniversary of its launch. He died peacefully in his sleep early on Tuesday at a Southampton nursing home. He was 88 and due to celebrate his 89th birthday on Friday.
Trevor Baylis, the inventor of the clockwork radio, told The Daily Telegraph, “I don’t think that he got the recognition that was his due. Some 600 million people have travelled by hovercraft – that is an amazing number of people to benefit from an invention.”
A prolific inventor, Sir Christopher had 90 patents registered to his name. He was employed by electronics giant Marconi for 15 years after graduating, and was on the team that developed radar.
In 1950 he and his wife bought a small boat-building business on the Norfolk Broads, where he began to formulate his ideas for the hovercraft.
AIST class Soviet hovercraft
Medios de desembarco anfibio; militar.org.ua
Aist-class LCAC was the first large assault hovercraft operated by the Soviet Navy. Designed and built by a division of the Almaz shipbuilding company in 1964-1965; production lasted from 1970 until 1985. By the early 1990s twenty to twenty four had been produced. They began to be withdrawn following the fall of the Soviet Union, and by 2004 only six remained. +
A hovercraft travels over the Heihe section of the Heilongjiang River, a border river between China and Russia, in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province. A total of 16 hovercrafts were put into service this year (joint operation). via sinodefenceforum.com
Live Leak: On April 12, 2013 in Feodosiya, (a port city in Crimea, Ukraine) representatives of the state-owned defense conglomerate Ukrainian Defense Industry (Ukroboronprom) and Chinese Navy officials signed the certificate of acceptance for the first Zubr amphibious hovercraft.
The Chinese Navy has placed an order for four craft at a reported cost of 315 million US dollars.
Development of Zubr landing ships started in the USSR in 1978, and the first serial ship joined Soviet Navy in 1988. Its carrying capacity is 3 main battle tanks with overall mass of 150 tons or 10 armored personnel carriers weighing up to 131 tons plus 140 marines, or 8 infantry fighting vehicles with mass up to 115 tons. If not carrying armor, Zubr is capable to accommodate 366 men. +
Russian’s Zubr class LCAC
The Fifth International Marine Show post also has some nice close up photos
A picture released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 26, 2013 appears to show evidence of digital manipulation, specifically the cloning of at least two hovercraft, to make it appear as if more vehicles were involved in a recent military exercise.
It appears North Korea has doctored pictures of its military to make it look more impressive than it is – and not for the first time
The Guardian; Wednesday 27 March 2013 — The images of North Korean military hovercraft landing on a desolate beach were supposed to portray a disciplined, combat-ready army ready to launch or repel an attack at a moment’s notice.
As South Korea and the US continued their controversial joint military exercises in the region, the North’s official news agency this week distributed photographs showing the communist state playing war games of its own.
The hovercraft image, however, may have been doctored to make the exercise appear more menacing than it really was…
Glorious Korean Naval Gods Attack Yankee Imperialist Round Eye Landmarks For the Benefit of The Nation!!
New York City Being Attacked!!
Charging Ashore at Venice Beach!
Engaging Enemies of the People at Disney World!!
Every year a full-blown Hovershow is staged to raise the funds necessary to cover the running costs – and 5,000 people plus have visited on such occasions.
On the 50th anniversary year of the hovercraft being launched and crossing the English Channel under its own power – the Museum staged a spectacular show to celebrate this once in a lifetime anniversary – and to pave the way to establishing a permanent Hovercraft Museum telling the story of this marvelous invention which still has applications worldwide.
Build a hovercraft you can ride using just plywood, a lawn chair,
and a shower curtain. Power is provided by a leaf blower.
Don’t miss Hovercraft Dogs Bed
Neoteric – The Original Light Hovercraft Manufacturer (with history)