The Hovercraft — A Ship That Can Travel On Land and Water ~ Kwentology

What is a Hovercraft?

Imagine a vehicle that can travel on water, land, or even on ice. Does that make a plane, a car, or a boat? It's the hovercraft, a vehicle that glides over land or sea on a cushion of air powered by propellers or jet engines.

High-pressurized vents of air supplied by a powered fan underneath the craft press down on the surface, lifting the vehicle slightly. This constant air source is trapped by vehicle's skirt, reducing friction and allowing it to move forward smoothly.

A Crafty Inventor

Christopher Cockerell, an English inventor, wanted to make the boat he was building go faster. He figured that a vehicle suspended on a cushion of air would quickly skin the water's surface. However, any fan he used would be larger than the boat. After trial and error, Cockerell realized that pressurized air around the rim of the boat could cause it to rise.

Image of Hovercraft SR-N1

The Hovercraft SR-N1 was the first successful hovercraft invented by Christopher Cockerell.

Out of Luck, Then Success

In 1952, Cockerell got busy designing and testing a model. He took it to the British government, thinking the armed forces could benefit from his invention. Although his idea was classified top secret, Cockerell didn't receive any money to develop the hovercraft further. He later complained, "The Navy said it was a plane not a boat: the Air Force said it was a boat not a plane; the Army were 'plain not interested."

Five years later, the inventor built a full-scale model, the SR-N1. On July 25, 1959, the SR-N1 successfully crossed the English Channel in a little over two hours.

Image of Latest Model Of Hovercraft

This hovercraft is setting its voyage to glide offshore.

What Are They Good For?

Hovercraft transport people, equipment, and other vehicles across all kinds of terrain.
  • Hovercraft fly over shallow water, thin ice, rapids swamps, and even deserts to rescue people in danger.
  • The military uses hovercraft to transport tanks and other heavy equipment.
  • Oil companies use flat-deck hovercraft to transport equipment across mud flats.

What's More About Hovercraft?

Large hovercraft glide along at an average of 35 mph, while lighter craft can go as fast as 70 mph. The world record is 85 mph, set by Bob Windt in 1995.
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Hi Michael,

Good article on the hovercraft. Thanks for sharing. I never really tried to figure out how it worked, and now I know. Sally