Hovercraft, as we know them today, have been around for about
half a century, since the 1950's, but have somehow never managed
to get into the mainstream use of transportation.
This has been for various reasons. Its inability for precise
manoeuvring control and its relatively high maintenance and
noise levels compared to the automobile have been sufficiently
difficult to overcome to keep the air cushion vehicle at the
fringe of modern transport.
It also came along well over fifty years after the automobile
was accepted as the standard means of transport in its many
guises as car, truck, recreation vehicle and so forth.
The fact that hovercraft technology was classified as secret
after World War 2 (see
Hovercraft History) also didn't encourage it into the
mainstream of vehicle construction companies. And even after it
became declassified in the 1960's problems with wear and tear of
the rubber skirt, salt intake by the fans and other technical
difficulties all contributed to keep the hovercraft and other ai
cushion vehicles in the domain of specialised vehicles and
Furthermore, the inability of governments to classify the air
cushion vehicle - it's neither a car nor a boat, apparently,
although it is usually considered a boat - didn't make it easier
for general acceptance.
That is not to say that its independence from established
roads and the need for a smooth road surface is not one of these
reasons as well. It is easy to imagine that road construction
companies as well as (local) governments, law enforcement
agencies and the military would be against such a vehicle. But
is it justified?
In our overcrowded road systems strict order and driving
regulations are necessary. Having everyone drive in vehicles,
like hovercraft, that can go just about anywhere would not only
complicate traffic tremendously, it could also cause
irreversible damage to our already struggling environment.
But that is only one side of the argument. Modern cars,
especially the all-terrain vehicles that are so popular
nowadays, have almost the same ability as do hovercraft; to go
most anywhere outside the road system. And so do motorcycles and
other off-road vehicles. More than that even because where
hovercraft have difficulty, as with slopes, ATV's and
motorcycles do not.
Trillions of dollars could have been
saved on expensive road surfaces and maintenance worldwide if hovercraft had
been adopted as the standard transport vehicle instead of the
car. But again, the
road construction companies would have been against such a
development. And they do have a powerful voice in many places.
work perfectly well on grass, imagine if all the highways and
roads we have were made of grass instead of concrete and asphalt?
Just add a simple attachment at the bottom and we'd be cutting
the grass as we travel over it.
Hovercraft also have difficulty on steep slopes, something
which a wheeled or cater pillared vehicle has less or no problem
But if as much money was spent on research and development of
hovercraft as is being spent on regular road vehicles,
these problems too would have been a thing of the past long ago.
Either way, hovercraft enthusiasts have not given up their
struggle to make this vehicle a popular one, even if only for
recreational use and, since a decade
or two, hovercraft have been widely used by the military (see
Military Hovercraft) and
commercial companies such as boat ferries, rescue vehicles and
park ranger transport, to name but a few (see
Hovercraft in Use).
It would certainly cut down on water pollution, noise and
injury to water surface animals if hovercraft and other air
cushion vehicles were used instead
of motorboats in places such as Florida and other recreational
And, as the picture shows, applying hovercraft and
other air cushion vehicles for public and commercial
transportation purposes is a definite option. So what is keeping
the world at large from upgrading from the car to hovercraft?
The Eska-2, early Wing in Ground Effect plane.
The Aerocon, a WIG-craft
(Wing-In-Ground effect), in an artist's impression of
The Hovershuttle, modern transport at low ecological
impact and cost.
The Alura Air-Floater. Float your way to work.
SeaWings - WIG-craft in flight.
The many hovercraft clubs around the world prove that this
air cushion vehicle is only beginning its rise to popularity
(see Hovercraft Clubs), and
the ready availability of plans (see
Schematics) and materials (see
and Kits) to construct your own hovercraft show that there
is a growing interest in this modern technology the world over.
The last ten years has seen a significant increase in the
construction and use of air cushion and WIG-craft with many of
the old difficulties solved or greatly improved. Modern air
cushion vehicles are more trustworthy, more controllable, are
fuel-efficient and eco-friendly and often low-cost compared to
And even if you can't get a full-sized hovercraft for your
personal enjoyment, there's no need to go without this fun
pastime. Model sized hovercraft are very popular (see
Model Size Hovercraft) as a
remote control hobby.
After the step for those of us who live in town rather than
the great outdoors there is now an alternative - the Hoverpad
(See Hovercraft News and
Besides, owning a hovercraft, you don't need an ATV and
a boat to enjoy both off road and water, and at a fraction of
the cost with a lot more fun!