Hovercraft Events / News / Information
The Official Newsletter of the World Hovercraft Organization
June 2004 - In this issue:
- Guest Editorial: The Devilish Details
- DiscoverHover: the Build-a-Hovercraft
- Hovercraft Adventures on the Lewis & Clark
- Beyond James Bond: Hovercraft in Corporate
- Fast Facts about the World's First Hovercraft
At its midway point, the year 2004 is living up to
its declaration as the Year of the Hovercraft. As we reviewed
in a previous issue of HoverWorld
Insider, this is the first time in history that two major
international hovercraft events – the World Hovercraft Championship
and HoverWorld Expo 2004 – will take place in the same year.
Event updates are included in this issue.
Those events, however, are of primarily of interest only to those
of us who are already involved with the hovercraft. In the half
century since Sir Christopher Cockerell patented the first hovercraft,
the general public has considered it to be, at best, an oddity
- if they consider the hovercraft at all.
Due mainly to the efforts of small manufacturers and individual
enthusiasts, the hovercraft is now emerging from the status of
a weird hobby of the quirky few into mainstream awareness. In addition
to heavy hovercraft use by ferry services and the military, smaller
recreational hovercraft are now being used by the general public
in a variety of interesting ways - from honoring pioneer explorers
to corporate team building, tourism, marketing and education. Beginning
with this issue, HoverWorld Insider will introduce you
to some unique ways hovercraft are used today.
29 th Annual Hoverclub of America National
25-27 June 2004, Chillicothe, Ohio USA
This year's HCA National Hoverally, the largest hovercraft event
in North America, will be held for the first time in Chillicothe,
Ohio and will include the Ray Miller/Bob Carter Memorial Cruise
on the Scioto River beginning on 25 June, followed by HCA sanctioned
racing, endurance racing and model competitions 26-27 June. The
Hoverclub reports that Chillicothe is cruiser hovercraft heaven,
and participants will be able to cruise 60+ unobstructed river
miles upstream to Columbus, Ohio. Volunteers to help with the event
are needed, so be sure to check out the Hoverclub's website for
more information and a listing of additional events.
2004 World Hovercraft Championship
31 Aug. – 5 Sept. 2004, Berlin, Germany
The website of the World Hovercraft Federation's 2004 World Hovercraft
Championship is currently under development, so be sure to watch www.whc2004.com for
news about the event. You might also visit the WHF website at www.hovercraft.org.uk/whf/whfhome.htm
HoverWorld Expo 2004
28 Dec. 2004 – 3 Jan. 2005, Canberra, Australia
Read on for detailed news about the World Hovercraft Organization's
HoverWorld Expo 2004 in this issue's Guest Editorial by Expo Chairman
Chris Fitzgerald. The event will commemorate the 40 th Anniversary
of the World's First Hovercraft Race, held in Canberra in 1964.
To date, 50 participants from seven nations are registered to attend,
and according to Ken Osmond, President of the Australian Hovercraft
Federation, HoverWorld Expo 2004 is going to be "the most
exciting hover event ever conducted in Australia." New information
is continually posted, so bookmark www.HoverWorldExpo.com and
visit often. (photo: The HoverWorld Expo 2004 PaceCraft, a
deluxe Neoteric Hovercraft, at its March unveiling at Schenker
Logistics in Melbourne, Australia)
by Chris Fitzgerald
Chairman, HoverWorld Expo 2004
The Devilish Details
Update on HoverWorld Expo 2004
This time two years ago I was in the midst of planning World Hovercraft
Week 2002 in Terre Haute, Indiana USA. I fondly recall that only
a gentleman's agreement was required for city officials to enthusiastically
embrace the event and jump into action. With only a brief letter
of agreement, the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau provided
$20,000 in seed money; city leaders eagerly joined the Board of
Directors and went to work.
The scenario is a bit different with HoverWorld Expo
2004 in Australia, where a formidable number of governmental approvals
and permits must be in place before the event can happen. As someone
once said, governmental regulations are a lot like catsup or tomato
sauce – you either get none or far more than you want!
Even so, we are forging ahead and amassing the required
documentation that will allow us to create an event to remember.
A comprehensive 23-page Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan
was submitted last year to the National Capital Authority, and
I have made several trips to Australia since then to further develop
In March of this year, I spent two weeks in Sydney,
Melbourne and Canberra to jump-start the Expo planning process,
and would like to provide the following update.
Upon arriving in Sydney on 13 March, I was greeted
at the airport by Michael Nell of Viper Hovercraft/Nell Fabrication.
Michael is an enthusiastic supporter of HoverWorld Expo and is
planning to invite participants to visit his operation in South
I also spoke with Dr. Lawry Doctors, Professor of
Naval Architecture at the University of New South Wales, who is
Honorary Chairman of the CACTS Symposium at HoverWorld Expo. Lawry's
photographs of the 1964 World's First Hovercraft Race appeared
in Flight International Magazine; and we have posted them for you
on the Expo website at www.hoverworldexpo.com/firstrace/gallery.htm.
Next stop, Melbourne on 15 March. We had originally planned a
media event on 16 March in Melbourne as the HoverWorld Expo PaceCraft
was unveiled after its two-month journey in a shipping container
from the US . However, due to Canberra Day celebrations, we were
unable to obtain a trailer import permit that would allow us to
unload the container, so the media event was postponed until 24
This was both an irony and a portent of devilish things to come.
Canberra Day, the same holiday that marked the World's First Hovercraft
Race in 1964, 40 years later delayed the first media conference
of HoverWorld Expo, an event designed to commemorate the 1964 race!
While in Melbourne I spent a pleasant time with Pauline and Ken
Osmond. Ken is President of the Australian Hovercraft Federation
and is actively and enthusiastically supporting HoverWorld Expo
On the way from Melbourne to Canberra on 17 March, I spent some
time at Albury Wodonga in consideration of that area as an alternate
site for the HoverWorld Expo Cruise. We have concerns that the
small size and low water levels of the original site, the Molonglo
River , are not conducive to cruising. Due to a lengthy drought,
the water level of Lake Burley Griffin, from which the Molonglo
feeds and flows, is down 29.5 inches (75 cm). In Albury Wodonga,
I drove the entire perimeter of the Hume Weir Reservoir and surveyed
various parts of the Murray River , then Kevin Bourke of the Albury
Wodonga Convention Bureau graciously took the time to drive me
to several select spots.
When I reached Canberra , Ross MacDiarmid and Steven Baldwin
generously provided me with a fully equipped office at Australian
Capital Tourism Corporation. I was especially honored, not only
by their helpful staff, but also by the fact that this is the first
time in their history that an office was provided for a client.
One of my priorities in Canberra was to explore optional race
sites, because there are some concerns about the logistics of staging
the race on Black Mountain Peninsula . I spent all of one day walking
the entire Jerrabomba Wetlands section of Canberra Nature Park
, and on the following day Park Ranger Dave Jensen and I again
toured the area.
Even though "wetlands" is stretching it a bit - the
Jerrabomba Wetlands are about as wet as the Sahara Desert - it
proved to be an ideal race site, with a large grassed area for
pits, lots of parking room, and excellent visibility with a panoramic
view of the city in the background.
But the devil is in the details. It seems the Jerrabomba Wetlands
is an important wildlife refuge for 77 species of birds, some migrating
from as far as Japan and China . One of these birds, Latham's Snipe,
takes up residence at our ideal race site for a short time each
December, so the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Parks & Conservation
Services advised that it was highly unlikely that our application
would be approved.
Ironically, we had to climb a barbed wire fence to enter this
natural habitat, which was being grazed upon by herds of cattle
and was crisscrossed overhead with an umbrella of power lines!
Thanks to Latham's Snipe, it was back to Black Mountain Peninsula
. I walked the entire course with Glenn Tomlinson of ACT Urban
Services and met with a number of officials. In order to create
a suitable race site at this location, several boundary posts,
a gate and a tree must be removed. In addition, space for camping
was not sufficient and there were safety issues resulting from
the fact that all access to the site is via a single road with
extremely limited parking. Should it become blocked, ambulances
and fire vehicles could not reach the site. Bush fires are a concern
in Australia . In January 2003 a widespread bush fire just west
of Black Mountain Peninsula destroyed more than 400 homes and resulted
in four fatalities.
Through my remaining meetings in Canberra , I still was not convinced
that we had a workable site for HoverWorld Expo. It wasn't until
I was driving back to Melbourne several days later that it occurred
to me that by moving the entire base of operations over to Weston
Park , the peninsula adjacent to Black Mountain Peninsula , it
would solve most of the operational and safety concerns. After
much deliberation, we concluded that the racing pits and campgrounds
will be located on Weston Park and Black Mountain Peninsula will
serve solely as one of the land/water transition portions of the
racecourse. Maps and photos of both locations are available on
the HoverWorld Expo website at www.hoverworldexpo.com/participantinfo/sitemaps.htm.
Steve Baldwin, Australian Capital Tourism's Event Development
Executive, accompanied me to many of my meetings in Canberra. We
met with National Capital Authority Events Officer Chris Jobson,
and briefly with Chief Executive Annabelle Pegrum, who reiterated
the requirements, formal approvals and permits that must be secured
from various Australian Capital Territory governmental agencies
before HoverWorld Expo 2004 can take place in Canberra. Among these
are Environment ACT; WorkCover (equivalent to OSHA in the US);
Urban Services; ACT Fire Brigade; Australian Federal Police; Australian
Federal Water Police (who must inspect each participating hovercraft);
Roads ACT; Parks & Conservation Services; and ACT Ambulance.
Preparing the documentation to secure such approvals is a monumental
task. As one example, ACT Environment alone requires an official
Environment Protection Agreement which, in part, must include a
second comprehensive risk assessment detailing all …
||"possible environmental impacts from the event and appropriate
measures identified and measures proposed and implemented to
mitigate against those risks. Some examples of those impacts
could be the following, but not limited to:
- fuel filling areas
- pit areas and works undertaken in these areas
- any workshops
- wash down areas
- hours of operation
- noise levels, model of noise impact up to the closest affected residential
- gray water disposal method of involved food vendors
- noise levels and location of all generators"
Everyone involved with HoverWorld Expo 2004 is currently immersed
in the devilish details as we prepare materials to submit to these
various governmental divisions. We will keep you informed as new
information or changes in the plans are available.
After meeting with Steve Ramsden, the Chief Policy Advisor to
ACT Minister of Tourism, Ted Quinlan, and briefing him on HoverWorld
Expo, I had the pleasure of spending time with Judi Power Thomson
whose father, Allen Hawkins, was the winner of the World's First
Hovercraft Race. Judi is a prominent Australian artist and owner
of a winery near Canberra. She not only generously provided a treasure
trove of historical material about the 1964 event for the HoverWorld
Expo website, she also stated that she would be delighted to host
one of the HoverWorld Expo functions at her winery.
Next it was on to priority number two: recruiting a volunteer
onsite manager for HoverWorld Expo 2004. I first met with Chic
Henry, organizer of the Summernats Car Festival. Chic has built
Summernats into one of the largest and most successful events in
Canberra, and he has accomplished this without government assistance.
Although he felt that his Summernats responsibilities left insufficient
time to devote to HoverWorld Expo, he did recommend an associate
who could manage the event from the Summernats offices for around
This is not feasible, however, especially given that World Hovercraft
Week 2002 in the US was successfully organized entirely by volunteers.
Summernats is structured differently than HoverWorld Expo, and
Chic apparently did not realize that HoverWorld Expo 2004 is being
staged by the not-for-profit World Hovercraft Organization in conjunction
with the Australian Hovercraft Federation, a not-for-profit club.
Steve Baldwin introduced me to Mary-Anne Waldren, Executive Director
of the Australian Science Festival, another highly successful Canberra
event. Mary-Anne suggested a former associate, Dr. Robert Simpson,
as a possible event manager. Robert is now in the United Kingdom,
and we are currently discussing the possibility of his return to
Canberra to help manage HoverWorld Expo, hopefully as a volunteer.
About this time, I continued my talks with Dave Rogers, retired
Air Chief Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force. Dave is involved
with the Australian Air Force Cadets (formerly Air Training Corps.)
Many of the contestants in the World's First Hovercraft Race were
Australian Air Force cadets or personnel. Hence, our efforts have
been continuing to involve the Cadets in HoverWorld
Expo 2004 through the DiscoverHover program.
Dave held a meeting recently in Sydney to discuss that involvement,
and we should have details soon.
The highlight of my Canberra visit was the time spent with Em
Taylor and her colleagues at Questacon, the National Science and
Technology Centre, which is located in the vicinity of the HoverWorld
Expo race site. They greeted me enthusiastically and overflowed
with interesting suggestions, such as involving schools throughout
Australia in DiscoverHover and the Expo, culminating in events
at the Questacon facility and adjacent grassed area that would
include model competitions, entry-level drag races and an obstacle
But more devilish details. The grassed area is controlled by the
National Capital Authority, who requires an amended Risk Management
Plan, separate approvals from all the aforementioned authorities,
and a $10,000 bond in addition to the $10 million in public liability
Other Questacon suggestions included extending HoverWorld Expo
into multiple years, and bringing the 2006 World Hovercraft Championship
The lively manner in which Questacon embraced HoverWorld Expo
2004 and instantly expressed a can-do attitude and a sense of "ownership" was
quite refreshing. The effort and creativity that Questacon is contributing
to the event will be quite obvious and enjoyed by all who attend.
The details remain to be resolved.
Re-invigorated by this experience, I returned to Melbourne on
23 March for the PaceCraft unveiling and media conference on the
24 th at Schenker Logistics Australia, the official freight forwarding
company for HoverWorld Expo. Our thanks to Australian Hovercraft
Federation members Ken Osmond, Adel Mostafa and Steven McConnell
for demonstrating their hovercraft at the event. You'll find photos
of their craft and the media conference on the HoverWorld Expo
website at http://www.hoverworldexpo.com/mediacenter/pacecraftphotos.php?img_id=126
On 26 March I left Australia to return to the United States where
we continue to "work like the devil", detail by detail,
to make HoverWorld Expo 2004 a memorable experience. You can rest
assured that all the "i's" will be dotted and the "t's" will
be crossed so that everything will run smoothly for you at the
event. At this writing, some 50 participants from seven nations
have registered. We encourage you to stay updated on who will be
joining you in Canberra this December by visiting www.HoverWorldExpo.com often.
We also ask you to watch your email for the next issue of HoverWorld Insider. We are anticipating an announcement that will encourage
you to join us this December for HoverWorld Expo 2004.
the International School Hovercraft Program
Since the World Hovercraft Organization's DiscoverHover program
was introduced late last year, hundreds of schools, organizations
and individual students have registered to receive the program's
free hovercraft plans and building instructions. The plans are
now nearing completion for download from www.DiscoverHover.org.
The hovercraft plans were originally designed by
Bob Windt, the holder of the Hovercraft World Speed Record, for
sale exclusively to members of the Hoverclub of America, Inc. The
Hoverclub's program was such a success, the World Hovercraft Organization
decided to update and improve the blueprints, add teacher training
ideas and make the plans available to students, instructors, schools
and youth clubs worldwide - at no charge.
The original plans consisted of only two blueprints
and little detail, so the first task was to convert the blueprints
into AutoCAD files and to bring them into conformance with professional
drawing practices. Tim Envall of Australia, and engineering students
from Indiana State University in the USA initiated this work, which
was then reviewed and modified by Rob Wilson, Technical Director
for Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc. in the USA and Neoteric Engineering
Affiliates Pty. Ltd. in Australia.
Since DiscoverHover participants will have the opportunity
to race their hovercraft in competitions throughout the world,
including HoverWorld Expo 2004, the next task was to re-design
the craft in order to make it easier to transport. The new DiscoverHover
hovercraft will be a modular design: the cockpit, the hull or base,
the thrust duct and the engine module can be separated for shipping.
This allows the craft to nest together to reduce shipping volume
for international transport. The modular design is also an advantage
when transporting the hovercraft in a small cargo or passenger
van or a pickup truck.
In addition to new and improved plans, the DiscoverHover
program is receiving tremendous support from Canberra, Australia's
Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre. Questacon
recently announced that $50,000 of their budget will be dedicated
to exhibits and programs that tie in with DiscoverHover and HoverWorld
Expo 2004. According to Em Taylor of Questacon, "We are hoping
to build a HoverChair, put displays on the history and the technology
in the foyer, produce a promotional flyer for schools and members,
and bring out the exhibit from the British Hovercraft Museum, plus
a few other things."
For those of you who have already registered to receive
the DiscoverHover free hovercraft plans, be sure to check the website
often for their upcoming availability. For those who have not yet
registered, don't miss this chance for a life-changing experience.
All information on www.DiscoverHover.org,
including the hovercraft plans, is free to schools and universities,
to instructors, to youth organizations and students age 7 to 21
anywhere in the world. If you don't fit into one of these categories,
you can still purchase the plans for a nominal fee.
DiscoverHover will also provide a popular interactive
hovercraft exhibit for museums anywhere in the world, including
a working HoverChair to give children the opportunity the pilot
Adventures on the Lewis & Clark Trail
In May 1804 near the frontier community of St. Louis, Meriwether
Lewis and William Clark issued a one-word command - "Sail" -
and plunged into the unknown on their historic expedition to the
Pacific Ocean that opened the American Northwest.
Two hundred years later, a different one-word command - "Hover" -
has launched two separate teams of hovercraft trailblazers who
are honoring the pioneer explorers by hovering in their footsteps,
while they spread the word about hovercraft and introduce the DiscoverHover
school hovercraft program to students across America.
The last issue of HoverWorld Insider featured
the first of those trailblazers in From
Sea to Shining Sea – in a Hovercraft, which previewed
British citizen Robert Hodson's two-year Trans American Hovercraft
Adventure from Savannah, Georgia to the Pacific Ocean – the
longest hovercraft trek in history.
Last month an American hovercraft team from Universal
Hovercraft also re-blazed the Lewis & Clark Trail from the
St. Louis area to Yankton, South Dakota.
With thanks to Robert Hodson; Bill Zang, Bob Windt
and their colleagues at Universal Hovercraft; and Harold Carter
of the Hoverclub of America, we share with you the experiences
of these modern day explorers.
Trans American Hovercraft Adventure
When Harold Carter, the Hoverclub of America's cruise
director, read about Robert Hodson's Trans American Hovercraft
Adventure in HoverWorld Insider, he dismissed it as an
impossibility. His immediate reaction was, "This guy has to
be absolutely nuts! This will never happen. He needs to get out
a geography book."
A few weeks later, after discovering that Robert
was already halfway up the Savannah River, Harold traveled from
Atlanta with his own hovercraft to meet with Robert on Lake Hartwell.
He now says, "Robert is on my mind all the time. What he's
doing is something we'd all like to do, and it's absolutely awesome."
The adventure began on 7 April when Robert embarked
from Savannah in his custom Griffon 450 TD Mk II hovercraft. The
craft, named "Wings of the Dawn", weighs 2.5 tons, is
24 feet long and 11.5 feet wide on cushion; it can carry 28 gallons
of fuel and gets about 6 miles per gallon, with a 150-mile range.
Griffon Hovercraft, Ltd. of Great Britain ordinarily supplies to
commercial and military operators, so Hodson may be the first individual
to purchase a craft this large from Griffon.
Harold Carter had an opportunity to pilot the Griffon
craft on Lake Hartwell, and says, "Flying the Wings of the
Dawn versus the craft most Hoverclub members are used to is like
flying a Cessna 150 or other small aircraft versus flying a corporate
turbo aircraft such as a Beachcraft KingAir."
Robert chose Savannah for his launch site because
the birthplace of the founder of the city, Gen. James Oglethorpe,
is a short distance from Robert's former home in Surry, Great Britain.
Robert's home in Surry is now former because he sold it
to help fund his two-year hovercraft adventure in America. (photo:
Robert Hodson's "Wings of the Dawn" hovercraft)
According to Robert, his launch was a "mad rush." Although
he'd had 30 hours of training, he had never operated the craft
on a winding river, so he decided at the last minute to take along
more diesel fuel, just in case. He raced to Wal-Mart for fuel cans
while the Georgia Ports Authority arranged a crane lift into the
Ever fuel-conscience, at one point on his journey
Robert rented a car, drove to the hovercraft's 150-mile range,
and stashed filled fuel containers alongside the river, accompanied
by a "Please don't take my fuel" note!
Robert says he hurriedly piled his luggage and supplies
into the craft in such a manner that he could barely reach the
controls - which include a Garmin GPSMAP 182C Chart Plotter, a
marine radio, switches for the ballast pumps, three inclinometers,
a joystick with a push-to-talk microphone button, two sets of various
engine gauges, duel aircraft-type throttles and foot bars to operate
five pairs of elevators inside the thrust duct.
Housekeeping was his first order of business. He
packed away his supplies while a group of people gathered to see
how the craft would cope with the strong current. "They had
warned me that once I was in the water I was on my own," says
Robert, "There was nowhere to tie up and the current would
quickly take me away."
(photo: Hodson concentrates on controlling his 2 ½ ton
His hoverhouse in order, Robert began a "wild
and spectacular" trip up the Savannah River, a sojourn of
astonished stares from fishermen, midnight encounters with local
hog hunters (who thought Robert was a game warden in a Humvee!);
brushes with the FBI and one "dam obstacle" after another.
There are no locks through the many dams on the first leg of Robert's
trip so he has depended on "persuading some local folk with
some lifting gear and a 25-foot trailer or flatbed truck" to
overcome these obstacles. His hovercraft is equipped with four
hook points enabling it to be lifted in a sling.
In Augusta, Georgia, Robert met several employees
of the John Deere manufacturing facility, who not only arranged
for the transport of his craft around two dams, but showed him
the true extent of southern hospitality. Most everyone he meets
asks, "Do you need any food or supplies?" and brings
him everything from food, whiskey, and iced coolers of soft drinks
to travel toiletries and books. When Harold Carter realized at
Lake Hartwell that Robert's sleeping arrangements consisted of
a pad on top of his storage boxes, he presented him with a much-appreciated
When Robert arrived at the J. Strom Thurmond Dam
in the midst of its 50 th anniversary celebration, he was immediately
stopped by the FBI and U.S. Department of Natural Resources. Not
understanding why a vessel from Great Britain was on the lake,
the decision was made to search it. All was determined to be in
order, even though when Robert maneuvered the craft around to accommodate
them, it threw up an enormous cloud, covering the officials with
a shower of mud and water.
At this writing, Robert is in the Tennessee Valley
water system, where he "feels like a released butterfly because
the ten dams on this system all have locks." He plans to spend
the July Fourth holiday in Mobile, Alabama, and to visit Neoteric
Hovercraft, Inc. in Terre Haute, Indiana this October or November.
Robert has also offered to travel to Canberra, Australia
at the end of this year to share his experiences at Hoverworld
Until then, HoverWorld Insider and the World
Hovercraft Organization joins Harold Carter and the Hoverclub of
America in encouraging you to welcome Robert and his big blue hovercraft
as he passes through your area. He is traveling without ground
transportation or a support team, so let's don't let hospitality
be found only in the south. Invite him in for a meal, or an overnight
stay in a real bed and, in return, you'll be able to join the hundreds
so far whom Robert has taken out for a spin in the Wings of
the Dawn. (photo: The "Wings of the Dawn" at
sunset on the Tennessee River)
You can track Robert's progress and see photos and videos of his
adventure on his website www.hover-adventure.com.
Universal Hovercraft Lewis & Clark Adventure
On 14 May, led by Bill Zang and Bob Windt of Universal
Hovercraft in Illinois and Don Bender of Michigan, a second team
of American explorers launched from Hartford, Illinois - where
the Lewis & Clark Expedition began on 14 May 1804 - to retrace
a portion of the historic trail up the Missouri River to Yankton,
Unlike Robert Hodson, who had only 30 hours of training before
starting his hover adventure, these trailblazers are experienced
Bill Zang, President of Universal Hovercraft, is an accomplished
international hovercraft racer, and was the 2003 Formula One world
champion. He serves on the DiscoverHover advisory board.
Bob Windt, the founder of Universal Hovercraft, is
considered by The Learning Channel's Junkyard Wars to
be "the godfather of personal hovercraft." He is the
original designer of the DiscoverHover entry-level hovercraft and
serves on the DiscoverHover advisory board. Bob holds the Guinness
hovercraft world speed record of 85.376 mph (137.40 km/h), established
in Portugal in 1995.
Don Bender was formerly both a snowmobile racer and
member of the pit crew for Wally Dallenbach on the Indy racecar
circuit. He now works full time designing and constructing custom
hovercraft in Michigan. (photo: The Universal team from left
to right: Ken Roberts, Bob Windt, Bill Zang, Don Bender, and Mike
Mike Kiester of Oklahoma is a commercial aircraft
pilot and has been a hovercraft enthusiast since 1975. He was the
founding Secretary/Editor of the Hoverclub of America, Inc. in
1976 and Hovercrafter of the Year in 1984. He is also co-holder
(with Bob Windt) of the New Orleans to St. Louis hovercraft speed
record set in 1986.
The hovercraft pros departed from Camp Du Bois near
St. Louis, Missouri during the National Lewis & Clark Bicentennial
Event, where Bill Zang had the honor of shuttling the great-great-great-grandson
of William Clark, across the river. As they began their journey,
their hovercraft, appropriately named Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea,
were accompanied by replicas of the keelboats and pirogues used
Rather than stashing fuel upriver as did Hodson,
the Universal Expedition traveled at faster, less-efficient speeds
in areas where fuel was readily available, and slowed to 35 mph
in remote areas to conserve fuel.
The wind, rain, river debris, strong currents, and
hovercraft repairs that delayed the team at points in their journey
were offset by the "northern hospitality" bestowed upon
them all along the way. (photo: William Clark's great-great-great-grandson
with one of the Universal hovercraft)
The Sioux City Journal reported that the explorers
were pleasantly surprised by the crowds of friendly people greeting
them along the way, including the 30 or so residents of White Clay,
Kansas, who strolled into their campsite one night.
"'They wanted to know anything we needed, tools,
gas, if we wanted to go anywhere. It seemed like the whole town
came out to check on us,'" said Windt."
As Bill Zang reflected, "This is America out
here. The people will literally bend over backwards to help you
The Universal Hovercraft team had a greater goal
than just commemorating the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial: to
raise awareness of the importance of hovercraft as a vehicle that
can operate on almost any terrain, and to introduce DiscoverHover,
the World Hovercraft Organization's not-for-profit international
school hovercraft program.
"We want to interest young people in this important
project that makes science, physics and technology easy and fun
for both students and instructors," said Zang.
At stops along their journey, the team offered hovercraft
rides to the public in return for donations to DiscoverHover, and
gave local students the chance to win model hovercraft kits.
Visit the Universal website at www.hovercraft.com for
a full report on the Universal Hovercraft Lewis & Clark Adventure,
which includes numerous photos and videos.
James Bond: Hovercraft in Corporate Team Building
Team building has become a corporate staple in America
and Europe during the last decade, and continues to be a growing
trend throughout the world. It is estimated that in America alone,
companies spent at least $21 billion last year on team building
exercises and "adventures."
The philosophy behind corporate team building is
that companies can learn to work together more effectively by learning
to play together - resulting in improved morale and team spirit,
increased motivation, greater efficiency and productivity, a dramatic
reduction in employee turnover, and a positive impact on the bottom
The "family atmosphere" that quickly develops
amongst hovercrafters is well known to those in the sport, so it
is perhaps no great surprise that corporations are realizing that
hovering can foster business and employee relationships as well.
Beyond being Hollywood entertainment and a fun sport, hovercraft
can mean serious business. Do a search for "corporate team
building" AND hovercraft, and Google now displays nearly 5,000
Enjoy the following profiles of progressive corporations
who are using hovercraft to build a better company.
Revolutionary Hovercraft at Revcor
Revcor Revolutionary Air Flow, based in Chicago,
Illinois USA with locations in Fort Worth, Texas USA and Juarez,
Mexico, are utilizing hovercraft for not only corporate team building
but as a branding and marketing concept and customer incentive.
(photo: Chris Fitzgerald, President of Neoteric Hovercraft,
Inc. (back row, center)
and the Revcor hovercraft racing team with their corporate team
Revcor purchased their first hovercraft late last
year from Neoteric
Hovercraft, Inc. and named it Revolutionary Air One. Archie
Eschborn, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, reports, "Hovercrafts
are here to stay at Revcor and are actually a similar technology
to our core technology at Revcor – air movement … after
all, a hovercraft is nothing more than a big air movement device
or motorized blower package."
As a part of their team building and customer service
efforts, Revcor will offer hovercraft training at their Chicago
headquarters for both employees and customers. According to Eschborn,
the plan is to "create our own training program and offer
it to visiting customers then, after training, award them a certificate
and photo of them seated in the hovercraft with our Revcor instructor
to hang on their office wall."
Eschborn explains Revcor's long-term vision for their
corporate hovercraft: "Participating in the world of hovercraft
will solidify the Revcor image of a progressive air movement technology
company in the eyes of our customers. Further, since hovercraft
require a propeller or fan in conjunction with a motor, we could
continue our research into developing quieter fans … Improvement
here could trickle down onto the technology we use in our HVAC
Thrillseekers, Unlimited: Hovercraft Extreme Team Building
Thrillseekers, Unlimited, a US company with branches
in Las Vegas, New York and Hollywood, offers hovercraft racing
for $650 per person as a part of their Extreme Team Building program.
The "Future Sports" section of their website explains, "This
[Hovercraft] Future Sport experience will start with a safety briefing,
followed by flying lessons. You will float on an 8-inch cushion
of air at speeds up to 50 mph across a wide-open dry lake bed in
the desert just outside of Las Vegas."
Among their Extreme Sports and Stunt Vacation packages
are the Weekend Warrior and the 5-day Ultimate Extreme
Vacation, customized packages that can include hovercraft
racing, fire walking, paragliding, rock climbing, skydiving, bungee
jumping, NASCAR racing, paintball, sand surfing, covert ops, and
more, all directed by actual stunt men and women.
Thrillseekers also provides 30-minute Hovercraft
Shows for futuristic theme shows, grand openings and other events,
where "Stunt pilots fly on a cushion of air over land, water
and ice … The hovercraft is a hi-tech/modern addition to
any show." The fee is $2500 first day, $1,500 each day thereafter,
with additional fees for the logistics crew and technical stunts.
The popularity of Thrillseekers Extreme Team Building
is reflected in their news coverage in Newsweek, the Wall
Street Journal, USA Today, ESPN, MTV, Marumi of
Japan, Great Escapes of Australia and all the major US
news networks. Among their impressive client list is Budweiser,
The Discovery Channel and ESPN.
Chillisauce: Team Building Hovercraft Racing
Chillisauce, with scores of locations throughout
the United Kingdom, offers hovercraft racing as a team building
exercise and for corporate events and group weekends as well.
According to Chillisauce, "Even for those who
have done every other conceivable motor sport, hovercraft racing
is somewhat of a unique experience. They handle like no other machine,
powersliding across the surface whether on land or water."
The company believes that hovercraft racing provides
a one-of-a-kind experience because the skills required to pilot
a hovercraft – good balance, fine judgment and forward thinking – are
different enough from any other form of land-based racing to put
everyone on a level playing field from the start for a truly unique
Chillisauce gives each of the team building activities
it offers a 1 to 10 "uniqueness rating" - among them
bungee jumping, military swat team training and tank driving. Hovercraft
racing is rated 9/10 on their uniqueness scale.
In the past year, Chillisauce has organized events
for corporations including Coca-Cola, Price Waterhouse Coopers,
Goldman Sachs, Barclays and Deloitte & Touche.
Facts about the World's First Hovercraft Race
The World's First Hovercraft Race took place on March
14, 1964 – only five years after the first hovercraft flew
in Great Britain - on Canberra, Australia's new, partially-filled, ₤2 ½ million
Lake Burley Griffin. HoverWorld Expo 2004, 28 Dec. 2004 – 3
Jan. 2005, will commemorate the 40 th anniversary of the World's
First Race, and illustrate just how far hovercraft racing has come
in the last four decades.
A hovercraft is a hovercraft by any other name
The 1964 news media struggled with what to call those
newfangled hovering thing-a-ma-jigs. One reporter referred to them
as "strange craft that combine some of the qualities of a
lawn mower, speedboat, helicopter and egg beater." Other media
reported on "the world's first hoverboat race" and the
world's first "hover vehicle race."
The Canberra Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society
tried to ease the confusion by explaining that 'hovercraft' was
a proprietary name; that the proper term in Britain was 'air cushion
vehicle' and in America, "ground effect machine' … but
the media preferred various forms of 'hover-something-or-other.'
But all agreed that whatever they were, it was the
first time in history that more than two of them were brought to
the same place at the same time in order to compete. It was estimated
that that only 18 of whatever they were existed in Australia in
What? We're racing on water?
Prior to the race, most of the 10 entrants had never hovered
on water; in fact, two of them started building their hovercraft
only a week before the race. It definitely evened the field when
every competitor was starting from scratch in learning to cope
with wind and wave conditions on a large lake.
Contestant Dan Reece explained to the media, "We
have never been able to get permission to go on water in the Australian
Capital Territory before … We've had to use backyards and
Two entries tried to get a leg up on the competition.
On their way to the race, the Queensland entry, to much amusement,
tested their craft on a swimming pool at a Royal Australian Air
Force base, and the South Australia entry took a dip on Lake Torrens
the week before the race.
Allen Hawkins, first place winner, said, "Taking
the water for the first time was a real shock. It was like riding
a thundercloud … I didn't have much control and wind blew
Judy Papps, a spectator at the 1964 event, recalls, "What
is most vivid in my mind is how funny it was watching the hovercraft
going off in all directions – not necessarily the one the
No doubt due to being hover landlubbers prior to
the race, only five of the ten craft finished; three had to be
towed ashore, once capsized twice, and one sank out of sight altogether.
The Disappearing Hovercraft
While being towed, Frank Greenham's hovercraft suddenly
disappeared into the waters of Lake Burley Griffin. Although the
lake was only partially filled, it was sufficiently deep and murky
to make finding the craft a real treasure hunt. Skin divers plunged
in at the end of the day to search for the craft, but came up empty-handed.
The disappearing hovercraft was finally located and
fished out of the lake by the Water Police, with the aid of grapnels,
four days after the race.
And the world was watching
The World's First Hovercraft Race attracted journalists,
press and television cameras, and an estimated 10,000 – 20,000
spectators, more than one in seven of the entire population of
Canberra. The race, according to news reports, provided them with "plenty
of excitement and amusement" as they watched the genesis of
the sport of hovercraft racing struggle with it's 'training wheels.'
Although the participants were certainly dampened
in other ways as they capsized and faltered and sank, their spirits
remained undaunted. These were true hover pioneers, with little
to guide them. As contestant Dan Reece said, "You can't just
go out and buy a book … You just have to figure out what
makes them go and work out a design for yourself."
The sport is where it is today because of these pioneers,
who predicted back then that the last word in hovercraft design
would not be said for many years, and believed from the beginning
that hovercrafting would be "big-time" in years to come.
To learn more about The World's First Hovercraft
Race, go to www.HoverWorldExpo.com.
the next issue of HoverWorld Insider:
- Hovercraft in Advertising: Black Sea World, Bulgaria – a
Future WHC Site?
- Hovercraft in Entertainment: Agent Cody Banks in a Neoteric Hovercraft
- Hovercraft Rescue Experiences
- Hoverchairs, hoverboards and … hoverwalkers?
- Event updates, Fast Facts … and much more!
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Copyright (C) 2003 World Hovercraft Organization