If a Hovercraft is
so good -
I guess this is one of the major questions I hear
quite from time to time - honestly I do not believe that a hovercraft
is so excellent that it can replace any other transportation means.
do we not see more in service ?
A hovercraft is a as unique craft as a submarine, specialized boat,
ultra light or helicopter. All of them have a certain place in our
transportation needs - just non of them can replace any other.
The following section is a copy of this topic on a discussion group
where you will find a wide variety of opinions.
Please hold in mind that these are the personal opinions of several
persons - some pro and some contra Hovercraft :
In my opinion, people get hovercraft for the first time and drive them
like boats, they wait till the last second then shut the power
off, THEN they are in trouble. When I got my craft hull, it was
battered and bruised probably from what I just mentioned. People
WON'T take the time necessary to LEARN what a hovercraft will or
will not do.
One thought I just had about the ability of hovercraft to go on
land. When exploring a river it could be great to be able to land
on sandbars, or on shore and camp. Well, I've found that there's
very little that can be done with a boat of equal size to a particular
Mainly being, pulling a skier. But the some of the UH crafts can pull
skiers with no problem. From a deep water start. So for some there's
nothing a boat can do that a hover can't. The Wbere's have even pulled
a skier with a 25 hp kohler. now that's impressive. Down on the lakes
and rivers, Boaters only wish they could keep up with hovers. We can go
in no water at all. For some of the best fishing, we get to go places
that'd hang up a boat. The reason they're not as popular as boats is
there are no big manufacturers
building them. Sure there are a few but they don't build cruise or
utility type crafts. All the factory builds I've seen are 2 cycle 1 to
2 person crafts. They make bigger ones too, but they're not as popular,
mainly because of expense. But you can bet if a big company like
Bayliner, Tracker or some of the others built them, there'd be more
hovers on the waters than boats.
I think it depends on what you want to use it for. If you want to
unload at the lake cruise around, look good, fish and pull a
skier get a water plow. If you want to fly into the water without
a boat ramp, park on islands/sandbars, run on ice, drive up and
down rivers, run rapids or get to that fishing/scenic spot that a
boat just can't navigate a hover could be your choice. I can't
see any reason why hovers should be more popular than boats and
the lakes should be filled with them.
Let me disagree a bit, LOL. Even build by a large manufacturer
hovercrafts would have distinct disadvantages to boats. Not in
terms of their capabilities but in terms of required knowledge.
If you load both types of crafts totally wrong the boat will
still run. Handling of a hovercraft is also more difficult and
requires that you train whereas you can jump into a boat and just
drive it (been there done it). When we moved here I bought a boat
- never owned nor drove a power boat before -, drove to the lake
and just used it (well, learned the rules of the water first).
With a hovercraft the size of my water plow (17.5ft) I would have
been in trouble even with my previous "experience" with a Scat.
Another "disadvantage" of HC's is the payload. A normal 17ft boat
can handle at least 1500lbs. Try that with your 19P Hovercraft!
Yes, HC's would be more popular if they would be available like
boats but boats would always have the larger market share. This,
in my opinion, is the reason why they are not available like
boats (not enough money in it but lots of liability).
Well that's true, Hovercrafts do require allot more training and
responsibility. I still say the biggest reason they're not as popular
is they're just not readily available. If you want a craft as big as a
19P, Surveyor, or Explorer then you're gonna have to build it. LOL
As for payload, that's true too, but according to plans, the 19P will
carry 1000#'s in payload. Now, if built of foam and the craft weight
decreases 300 to 400 #, then that's very comparable to a boat,
except for passenger room. LOL Most people I talk to around here
and I mean about 90%, don't even know what a hovercraft is and if they
see mine, they think it's a hopped up air boat and are really surprised
to hear it can go on land. The public really just doesn't know what
they are or what they do. I have a 17' boat that I just sold to my Dad.
After we built the hover, we never used it again. It's sat for 2 years.
I'll take a
hover over a boat any day.
I think you're right about the liability issue though. Cause you know
some of these guys out there would just get in them and haul ass across
the water without thinking a single thought about handling till it was
Hovercraft have typically cost more than a comparably sized boat,
perhaps because there is a bit more to building a hovercraft
(skirt adjustments, drive alignments, etc.). And many
commercially available fiberglass hovercraft are laid-up by hand
. . . a labor intensive undertaking indeed. It's by not factoring
in labor costs for doing all of the fiberglass work ourselves,
that we can afford to
build hovercraft at about the same price as a comparably sized boat.
With the use of molds and "mass-production" techniques, commercial
hovercraft construction costs can be reduced. However, hovercraft
construction this way is still more complex than building a boat
(I've seen both done side by side in one shop), and since the
market for hovercraft is smaller, there will never be the kind of
economy-of-scale that exists in the boat building world (i.e. pay back
on the molds, etc., is longer, so price goes up to compensate).
So we may be looking at a bit of a catch 22 situation: higher
prices keeps market small . . . small market keeps prices high . . .
etc. And the fact that there are not as many hovercraft around as
there are boats simply means less exposure, thus, less popularity.
The lack of exposure thing was broken somewhat here in Halifax as a
result of the hovercraft tours in Halifax Harbour this summer. Before
it, there were virtually no hovercraft in the area, and I am certain
that this has cause in increase in hovercraft interest in the region .
. . until people discover what they cost.
Even with their higher construction (and thus, purchase) cost, some are
still finding hovercraft more economical to use than boats. The use of
hovercraft for search and rescue is an obvious one, so is tourism, but
there are other emerging commercial uses. For example, someone is
preparing to offer ferry service along the Halifax Harbour from Bedford
to downtown Halifax. Although capital cost may be greater than for a
boat of equal passenger capacity, I suspect the operator is banking on
lower operating costs (cheaper on fuel, less stringent docking needs)
and greater revenue from higher speed regardless of what garbage is
floating in the water (we have an extremely dirty harbour . . . over
50000 toilets still flush directly into it daily . . . yuk!). The
incredible lack of parking downtown Halifax will allow him to charge
$15.00 Canadian per round trip ($300 monthly pass, actually).
But as pleasure craft, will hovercraft ever become as popular as boats?
Likely never, due largely to price for pre built machines, and the
complexity of building your own . . . unless perhaps if someone comes
up with a kit approach, where everything is prefabricated and available
in the box, just requiring assembly, and it is marketed just
right. . . . Hmmm . . . food for thought?? . . . Then perhaps
hovercraft may become as popular as private airplanes at least.
I would say that controllability is one of the greatest factors and
probably one of reasons there are so few commercial manufacturers of
light hovercraft. The product liability insurance would skyrocket as
soon as the PWC people caught on and started killing people with them.
Then the government would ban/severely regulate them. We hovercrafters
like the uniqueness of our crafts.
Hovers are indeed more fragile than a boat. They are better compared to
an aircraft in that respect.
We can go on land and drive up to our trailers, stop on a sandbar to
rest or camp, glide through 3" deep water and watch the redfish scoot
out of our way drive outside of the congested Florida boat channels (in
my case). We do have to watch out for some hard obstructions above the
water like protruding sticks and exposed oyster beds(again my case in
Florida) but so do boats except they have to look out for then
I have, many times during my building of my hover, thought about giving
up and buying a boat. Then I think about going out to my favorite
island 3 miles out in the Gulf, flying past the boats anchored offshore
right up on the beach to park. In my opinion what Jerry eluded to in
regards to the people just simply not being aware has a lot to do
with the issue of hovers not being more popular. A part of this is not
wanting to take time in this hurry hurry rush rush world to learn the
technology that allow hovers to do what they do. People don't
understand how they work and it's sort of viewed as magic , and
therefore "scares them away" .
Boats on the other hand are as simple as falling off a log and
require little thought = motor turns prop prop pushes water boat
moves. WE know the same principle applies to hovers just using
air instead but the average man on the street think they are
ultra complicated and require years of math training etc. just to
be able to operate one , and in this work-a-day world people just
don't want to take the time to learn. Look at that boat's
capacity and compare cost to a hovercraft with similar capacity.
Hovercraft are much more expensive.
Here are some other reasons why hovers aren't more popular:
1. Control/stability: Boats are more stable and a cinch to drive,
hovercraft are difficult to control. Also, for most hovers, you
can't go into reverse. There's a way to make them back up, (not
SEV'S) but it takes time to learn the method. That's the other
thing, it takes quite a while to become a skilled hover pilot.
2. Wind: Get out into Puget Sound in your hover and the
wind picks up coming from the direction you want to go. You've
got a problem because a hover's speed is air speed. Then if you
want to go with the wind, control and plow in become a problem.
3. Capacity: My brother has a 17 foot Hanko boat, made from
1/4" Aluminum. We call it "the Tank" because its
indestructible. Last weekend he brought two 55 gallons drums full
of water, (that's about 1000 lbs) himself (about 275#), his brother in
law (150#) and his dog(95#) and all their hunting gear (150#, total
load 1670lbs) 30 miles down to our duck camp. I was behind him
the whole way and he averaged about 37 mph against a 15 mph
headwind. How much would a hovercraft cost that could do
that? How big and cumbersome would it have to be?
4. Repairs: You're boat engine isn't working just
right? Bring it to the dealer and have it repaired, often under
warranty. Some minor problems with the hull? Same
thing. You can get aluminum boats that are nearly impossible to
wreck. Hovers are fragile because they have to be very
light. What happens with the hovercraft when its broken?
5. Insurance: Can't get it at all if you built the hover
6. Skirt: Boats don't have skirts that rip, have to be repaired
Overall, a boat is more reliable, cheaper, tougher, and easier to deal
with. Fuel cost may be higher, but when you count up the cost of
maintaining the hover vs boat maintenance the boat per mile or per hour
operated is going to be much less. The only thing is being
amphibious, boats don't have that capability. If you need that
capability, hovercraft may be the way to go. If you're talking
shallow water but don't need to run up on land, an airboat may be a
consideration. They are much louder and big time gas guzzlers,
but again I'd be surprised if they're more expensive than hovercraft in
the final analysis.