Does a hovercraft have wheels?

No! A hovercraft rides on a cushion of air blown underneath it by a fan, and trapped there by a flexible skirt. The air rushes out under the edges and this means there is a gap between the water or ground and the skirt. So in fact a hovercraft really flies! Another fan pushes the hovercraft along. Try putting a sheet of paper on large table, and then blow air under the back edge of the sheet…if you get the angle right your sheet of paper will hover and then fly across the table just like a hovercraft.

Can a hovercraft go on roads?

It has been known but isn’t a good idea! Hovercraft ride on a lubricating cushion of air, so they will move down slopes if allowed to. Most roads have a drainage camber so if you take your hovercraft on a road you’ll end up in the gutter!

Is a hovercraft expensive to run?

It depends what else you might use instead to do the same journey. A typical River Rover hovercraft uses about 20 litre of diesel every hour and can cruise at 22kts (41 km/h) so that is less than half a litre of fuel for every kilometre and you can carry 500kg. A family car will carry that much on a good road for less fuel, as will a slow boat on a river. But over sand dunes a Landcruiser will use more fuel and go far more slowly. To go that quickly in a boat you’ll need a lot of power and at least as much fuel, and it will certainly cost more if you travel by helicopter.

What can a hovercraft travel over?

Any relatively flat surface. Water of any depth, even with obvious or hidden obstacles in it – including submerged fishing nets. They can go up and down rapids, over ice, mud, reeds, wet sand including quicksand, and stretches of firm ground. With a run up they can climb inclines, or slipways, get up riverbanks or fly over gullies.

How much can a hovercraft carry?

It depends how big it is. Hovercraft ride on a cushion of air, if you make the air pressure too high by carrying lots of weight then it will be less easy for the water surface to support the vehicle. A typical river rover carries 500kg; a large Griffon 8100 (22m long) can carry 10,000kg at up to 70 knots.

Aren’t hovercraft outdated now?

Not really, whilst the days of cross channel hovercraft are over, today’s vehicles are stronger, lighter, simpler, and more cost effective, using the latest materials and tried and tested commercial diesel engines rather than aircraft pedigree gas turbines, as used to be the case. Hovercraft have come of age and there are hundreds in commercial operation around the world.

Isn’t it better to use a helicopter?

It depends what you want to use it for: Helicopters can get to more places but they are more expensive (per payload kilogram kilometre). There are also a few occasions where you could use a hovercraft and not a helicopter such as operating for extended periods over mud where landing a helicopter is dangerous. In general if you are thinking of using a helicopter over a river/ estuary/ flooded /swampy region, then it is at least worth considering a hovercraft.

Are they easy to drive?

If you can learn to drive a car you’ll probably be able to drive a hovercraft without too much difficulty – it just takes training. However, just like driving a car you need to take time gaining experience to become really competent.