4wings.com Hovercraft development 47751 Michigan ave., Port Isabel - 78578 - Texas, US Tel.: (956)943 5150


Hovercraft development
47751 Michigan ave. , Port Isabel, TX, 78578
Tel:(956) 943-5150

If a Hovercraft is so good -
Why do we not see more in service ?

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.
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 hovercraft.
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 too late.

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 under water!

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 yourself.

6. Skirt:  Boats don't have skirts that rip, have to be repaired and replaced.

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.  

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