Friday, November 23, 2012

Snowmobile hovering

Funny how many people are surprised that the hover can travel over snow? Something just doesn’t seem to click when it comes to the ability of the hovercraft. Some of my best hover experiences have come during my winter flights either over a snow covered field or a frozen river or lake. The great thing about the hover on snow is the smoothness of the ride. The hover doesn’t just run over the snow it flies over it so the ride you get compared to a snowmobile or an ATV is totally different. Your hover actually floats over the ground like a bird and it makes no impact on the surface below. I have a local sod farm that has no issue with me flying my hover over his sod fields year round. He and I have talked about this in the past and he hates having snowmobiles run over his property because of the damage it does to the sod. ATV’s believe it or not also pack the sod when they run across the surface even with the snow covering. The hover however has a footprint equal to a seagull standing on one foot which is virtually no impact at all.

When you operate on slushy snow the hover is incredibly fast much like it is over flat smooth ice, when you fly over powder snow you get about the same amount of blow as you do when you are on water. What snow provides you with is a greater opportunity to fly. A little snow over an open field and you can basically fly your hover anywhere. A lot of snow and you can go where snowmobiles will typically bog down. Plus when you land you have such a wider impact surface that you don’t sink in.

Picture with me if you will flying on a river that is partially frozen, skimming over the ice and water with equal ease, you spot an open field that you want to explore so you point your hover toward the 4 foot bank and gun the engine the hover shoots up over the bank of the river that is snow covered and you go airborne as you clear the top of the riverbank. You land on the other side of the bank in an open field where no one has attacked the virgin snow. Your flying experience is awesome as you realize you are probably the only one who will view that spot on earth for a long time to come.

I’m looking forward to the 2012/13 winter season using my Hoverjet GT. This is an experience you have to try.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Survey hovercraft Gateway Services

To my knowledge Gateway Services Group are the first to utilize a hovercraft for survey purposes in the US. While the USGS has operated two Hovertechnics hovercraft for several years, Gateway Services Group has taken a bold step into the future by purchasing a hovercraft for use in their surveys for the pipeline industry. According to team member CB the situations they find themselves in requires a piece of equipment that can operate on a variety of surfaces and they believe the hovercraft will be the machine that will allow them to easily reach areas that previously they could not reach. On October 30th 2012 Gateway launched into a new era by purchasing and training their team as hover pilots. With a group of about 12 team members present on training day, we realized there are a lot of items that need to be ironed out with regard to use of the hover in the pipeline survey industry. According to SM a manager for Gateway Services Group the fact that the unit is registered as a boat but can be used as an ATV raises some interesting issues when it comes to regulations and safety requirements. The hovercraft is a crossover vehicle that operates as easily on water as it does on land, mud, and ice. While the Texas based company is doubtful they will see much ice they have had great concerns over reaching remote areas and moving people and equipment in and out of these areas.

Thank you, Gateway for choosing TLS WindSled as your supplier and for having the future vision to use a hovercraft in your industry. In future articles we will discuss some lessons we learned from partnering with Gateway and some innovative ideas it has spawned.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Prague OK Gateway servcies new hover

The road from Belvidere IL to Prague OK is a long one about 13 hours however the drive is awesome with clear skies and low wind. I've been listening to the weather reports and Hurricane Sandy is about to reach clear back into Chicago so being in Oklahoma is not a bad thing right now. My new customer Gateway Services Group is waiting for their new Hoverstar LC, I'm looking forward to delivering it to them and training some new hover pilots. We put a new type of coating on the upper hull of the hovercraft that should protect it against any obstacles they may run into (as new pilots often due) but this coating will also prevent the gel coat cracking that we've experienced in the past so I'm really excited about placing this new hover with them. Gateway is a survey company that has several other businesses and I am very happy to be working with them. My contacts at Gateway have been very nice people and I am looking forward to meeting them in person. I have about 2 hours left before the delivery and training session so I'm trying to put together all the last minute things I need to go over so I am prepared. New hovers to non-hover people is always a fun time, the look on their faces the first sight of the hover and the comments after they fly it for the first time are a huge reward. The hover travels over the surface like nothing you've ever experienced. I will be posting more about the delivery later.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hovercraft Rescue Safely

It has always been a wonder to me that more fire and rescue departments don't use hovercraft as a rescue vehicle, with the ability to travel over land, water, snow, and ice it would seem to be a no brainer that the hovercraft is the most economical unit to purchase. To accomplish all the task a hover can do a department would need to purchase a boat, a snowmobile, and an ATV to be able to cover the same surface areas. Even if they purchased these vehicles it would fall short of the hovercraft. For instance, if you were traveling over ice on a snowmobile and it broke through it would be tough trying to go back and get the boat. Or consider this, if you are traveling along on water in your boat and you suddenly run into shallows with rocks, now wat do you do? In a hovercraft you simply continue on your way and complete the task at hand. The hover will travel over snow of any depth so if you need to rescue a person from the middle of a snow covered area you simply fly your hover to them. Due to the low footprint of the hover it is the perfect vehichle to perform mud rescue. The great thing about using a hovercraft for rescue is you can do it from the safety of the hover. No more climbing out to a victim on ladders or in inflatable suits, you simply fly up to the victim and pull them into the hovercraft and fly away. I was speaking with a Fire Chief recently and he was telling of a rescue they performed on ice, he said it took them nearly 45 minutes to get to the victim, he then asked me how long it would take if they used a hover and since the person was only 200 yards off shore I told him probably about 2-3 minutes from the time you launch the hover from the shore line to the point of returning. Huge difference when it comes to situations where time is of the essence. In addition to the reduction of time you would also eliminate or at least greatly reduce the danger factor for the rescue workers because they would not have to exit the hovercraft in most cases and if you did your rescue platform would be right there with you.  If you have any questions about using a hovercraft in your area for rescue purposes please contact me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Asian Carp Hovercraft use

I first heard about Asian Carp a couple of years ago, I know you’re thinking "was this guy asleep or what?” to be honest with you I hadn't been to interested or concerned about them. Once I heard about them I started to research their presence and the impact on the environment and wondered if they actually do fly like I was reading. As a follow up to my research I decided to take a little trip down to Bath Illinois and check out the "Redneck Fishing Tournament" that was quite an experience, however it did not provide me with the answer to the question I had about how the hover would affect the fish. The only way to discover the answer was to fly with the fish so one day in late August I packed up my Hoverjet GT and headed toward Starved Rock State Park. After showing the park Ranger how the hover takes off on land (he was impressed) I headed off into the river for my Asian Carp adventure. Let me start this off by telling you everybody I spoke with told me not to travel the shore line in the shallows because they like to hang out there, so where do you suppose I headed, that's right the shore line. I flew the shore line for about two miles and saw nothing. I have to admit I was a bit confused by what I wasn't finding, with all I had read on these pest I truly thought I would face a barrage of flying fish. My experience now was disappointing to say the least, nothing not one carp, wait I take that back there was one it was floating belly up on the surface due to a boat strike. I decided to leave the main channel of the Illinois River and venture down the Vermillion. I turned down the Vermillion and as I traveled the river narrowed then it entered an area of rock, not rocks but boulders, so I had to slow down to maneuver around them, that's when it happened, a fish about 15 inches long leaped over the front of the hover. I have to tell you it scared the jeepers out of me but then the adrenalin kicked in and I was now in the hunt. What I noticed was that when I went fast and was flying over the surface I had no effect on the carp at all, that is probably due to the low environmental impact of a hover on the surface, when I slowed however it sets up a vibration in the water that will typically cause bass and other fish to leap. Now I was onto something if I wanted to avoid the fish fly fast if I wanted to stir the things fly slowly. Then I realized I probably didn’t want the stupid things jumping up and hitting me in the head so I decided to wait on hunting them until another day when I was more protected so I headed back home and started to design a protection cage for my next Asian Carp hunt. By the spring of 2013 my partner and I will be back on the Illinois and this time we’ll be ready for the Flying Fish, and this time we will be able to take pictures and video of the things. I can’t wait to go hunting on the Illinois next season. But wait a minute someone told me they are less active but still around in the winter. Hmm I wonder if I should try winter Flying Fish hunting?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hover Sharing

Hovercrafts for the most part are what people consider an expensive toy. However when you stop and consider that you're getting a boat, snowmobile, and an ATV all in one machine the price of the hover averages out to a much lower cost factor. While the hover can do nearly everything a boat can do it typically won't travel as fast as a boat with the same horsepower, on the other hand a 10 foot boat for instance could not handle 3 to four foot waves, nor will it run up on land and then back to water, and try running your boat of any size on ice solid or thin and see what happens. The hover won't run quite as fast as a snowmobile but then it doesn't sink in the snow when you stop, it can travel on a partially frozen river or lake and if you break through the ice it won't sink. When it comes to ATV the hover allows you travel on land over various surfaces and while it will not climb the type of grades or the rough surface that most ATV's can travel over the hover will travel over mud like no ATV can and if you stop on the mud surface it will not sink. If you think about the cost of a 10 foot hover that will carry two people and then price out a boat that will carry two people you'll find the boat cost about five to eight thousand less than the hover, but then you have to add in the snowmobile and ATV options which means you add around six to eight thousand for an ATV and another eight to twelve thousand for the snowmobile and your savings buying any one of these recreational vehicles disappears and is actually higher by about eight to twelve thousand dollars. Still not convinced? Well we at TLS WindSled have decided to help you experience hovercrafting at a fraction of the cost through our hover share program. For a very low one time price you can share in the ownership of a hover and not just one but multiple sizes of hovers. Through this unique program you can own a two, three, and up to a seven person hover the sharing the cost of purchase with several different owners. If you would like to know more go to our web site and click the tab GT Hover Share and discover whether this program is something you could use to experience hovercrafting at a very affordable price. Participants fly hovers that are never more than 2 years old always maintained, gassed up, and insured ready for fun flying. We have group rates available so check it out at

Happy Hovering

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Treasure Hunting Hovercraft Style 2

Phil and I tried everything to get my hover started and after about 15 minutes of no success we started talking about options. About two hundred yards from us was a private boat ramp that Phil thought we might be able to use so he jumped in the river and started walking up toward the ramp to ask the owner if we could use it to drag my hover out of the river. While Phil was walking up to the neighbors I kept messing with the hover and getting things ready to tow it by hand up to the neighbors or anchor it to Phil’s dock if that was my only option. Phil came back after about 15 minutes and said the neighbor was good with us using his ramp so Phil said "I'm already wet so I might as well tow the hover up to the ramp, my wife is on her way home so she can take you to your vehicle and you can meet me over at the ramp and we'll load this thing up. With that he took the rope and with hover in tow began to walk toward the ramp. I climbed the hill back up to his house and waited for his wife. When Dee arrived we headed to my car and retrieved it and the trailer then it was back to the private ramp. When I got back there I backed down the long hill to the boat ramp and did what I seldom do, I backed my trailer into the water to load my hover. When I backed up I noticed the trailer seemed to stop so we decided that was far enough and floated the hover up onto the trailer. I strapped it down and started to pull out. My front wheel drive dug in and then spun the tires, I backed up and got a little bit of a nudge and tried again and with that the vehicle moved about a foot and a half and dropped off the concrete onto gravel and spun again. After about 5 tries of doing that Phil said he thought I was stuck in the river mud with the back of the trailer, he felt around on the back of the trailer and sure enough I had scooped up about a thousand pounds of mud and it was keeping me from pulling out. We floated the hover off the trailer again and I tried to pull the empty trailer out of the water but still it wouldn't budge, so Phil said he would get his all-wheel drive SUV and pull it out. So Dee went to get their other vehicle, when she got back we pulled on the trailer and it still wouldn't budge so Phil checked the back of the trailer and it was embedded in the mud about two feet. We decided that we would have to get some of the mud off the back of the trailer and so Phil and I proceeded to shovel the mud with our feet. It was like pushing lead powder and in the 103 degree temperature I was feeling the effects of the heat. All the time we were trying to do this I kept thinking, "Great I come out here to treasure hunt and all I get is one problem after another". After about 10 minutes we finally got enough mud off the back of the trailer for Dee to pull the trailer ahead enough to get out of the mud, we then pushed the hover up on the trailer with two of us pushing and Dee pulling the front with a rope and the hover went about two thirds of the way up on the trailer and stopped. The hover was full of water in the inner hull and was too heavy to lift so Phil suggested we strap it down pull off the ramp turn around on the hill leading to the ramp and let the hover slide up the rest of the way on the trailer. This guy was smart he obviously had done this before and at this point with the sun beating down on us and I was ready to just leave the thing in the ater and let it float away forever. Phil is an interesting guy he always stays calm and just figures out whatever he has to make it work, last winter he was out fishing by himself, tripped while moving around in his boat an fell into the freezing cold river with no life jacket on. As he fell into the water his head struck the boat motor and cut his head just above the eye, he managed to pull himself back into the boat soaking wet and bleeding he motored back to his house about a mile away climbed the 200 feet up the 40% grade hill to his house and got patched up. All I can say is "he is amazing" not real bright sometimes (no life jacket and alone) but he is also amazing. After loading my brick of a hover on the trailer strapping it down and moving up to the top of the hill we switched the trailer over to my vehicle and I was ready to go. The home owners had left and were now back so I could meet them and thank them for allowing me to use there ramp, Mike the homeowner said, "No problem if you ever want to use the ramp again feel free". He offered us a cool adult beverage to help soothe the wounded ego and refresh ourselves after the ordeal but by then all I could think of was getting this hover home and collapsing in a chair and licking my wounds so I declined thanked them and headed toward the house. "How disappointing", I thought, "I had all these plans of finding treasure and all I got was frustrated and cost Phil, his wife and two perfect strangers some grief" all that and no treasure! Then it dawned on me, Phil, Dee, had just spent 3 hours of their Saturday in 103 degree heat helping me load my hover onto the trailer at a perfect strangers ramp who has offered to allow me to use it whenever I want to. I guess I found some real treasure after all, it wasn't the precious metal I could exchange for money it was incredible friendship and generosity of the people who helped me. Treasure is not someone else’s lost valuables it is friendship and kindness and with that I realized Me and my hover became a little richer that day and I found a treasure that is rare and extremely valuable.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Treasure hunting hovercraft style

My buddy Phil lives on the Rock River, the other day I was talking to him about the draught in this area back in 1987. I told him back then I wanted to take the hover over to the Mississippi and use a metal detector to see if I could find anything of value. He said "I can get a metal detector, bring your hover down to my place and we'll see if we can find anything on the Rock". I wanted to get my hover out so I figured this was as good a reason as any so we made plans to meet up on Saturday and give it a try. I had my hover in the shop trying to take care of an annoying electrical problem and my mechanic finally thought he had it fixed so I planned to check it out first then stop by Phil’s place and we’d launch from there. When I arrived at the river where I planned on starting a trial run I was shocked at how low the river was and how much sand and gravel bars were exposed. It was interesting to see what the contour of this river bottom was really like I’d heard a lot of horror stories by boaters who never run their boats in the part of the river because there is a channel that keep shifting and boaters are constantly hitting rocks and breaking props. After eyeballing the small channel where there was some water flowing I could see why boaters don’t like this portion of the river. It was actually rather fun flying out there where I knew the boats could not go. As I took off from the launch and rounded the south corner of the Ace of Diamonds launch I was using I caught a glimpse of two Eagles just setting out on a flight, it was an awesome site. Then I noticed the bugs, thousands of them and my hover was spitting them up at me as I flew along. I thought I should have brought my helmet with a face shield. It’s the one bad thing about flying on a river in low water; I would imagine they have a perfect habitat for hatching out. Oh well got to take the good with the bad so on I went. My hover started perfectly at my house and at my launch site and now it was running really well no hesitation and lots of power. I felt like we were in for a great time on the river. As I approached Phil’s place I saw him standing out on what used to be his floating dock but it was now just a wood platform on some barrels sitting on dry ground. It’s actually a real shame when the river drops down this low but then it just reduces the number of boaters you have to watch out for. I pulled up to Phil’s dock area landed on some rather soft mud and shut the hover off so we could load up his gear. Now this is a guy who fishes nearly year round and in Northern Illinois that’s pretty amazing so I was a little surprised when he stepped up to his ankles in mud while trying to get into my hover. At any rate we got all of his stuff settled I unloaded some of the extras I brought that I really didn’t need and Phil settled into his spot in my hover. I asked if he was all set and he nodded to the affirmative and with that I hit the key and…. Nothing! The engine turned over but would not fire. Dang that really was not what I wanted to happen or should I say not happen. From that moment on it was call this friend, then my mechanic (who was not available) and then try a couple of things to get it going. I have tried to take Phil out on the hover several times but we just couldn’t seem to get the schedules together now here we were all set to go and nothing. The engine had no spark the hover just wouldn’t cooperate. To add to the situation the temperature was sitting at a cool 103 degrees and here we were stuck on the back by Phil’s dock and the closest boat ramp was 5 miles north of us or 15 miles south of us. Hovers are a blast when they run but they’re like a brick when not on cushion. Neither of these launches were a workable option for me. So now what? I’ll write more later about this experience but for now I’m going to go sip on something cool to drink while I ponder my next words.

Ok so this picture is a bit of an exaggeration but I think you get the point it was dry and really hot

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rend Lake IL

Rend Lake Illinois a manmade lake in Southern IL is one of my least favorite places. It's nothing more than an oversized gravel pit with a lousy view of nothingness, why the state of Illinois decided to plunk this ugly body of water in this location is beyond me. The water in the main lake is typically too choppy to fly on due the fact that it is wide open and the wind blows across it creating some pretty rough water. There is very little landscape in this place pretty much flat very few hills, there are no houses along its shores because it is all State Park. Most of the bays are mud bottom which gives it a brown river water appearance, I suppose before the State of Illinois "aquired" this land from its residence it may have had some nice scenery but any of that was ruined by flooding over it. The bridges to the eastern backwater are low and make it difficult to pass under to arrive at anything worth viewing and in order to get to it you have to travel to the eastern side under I 57 which isn't the problem it is the next set of bridges that are really low and at high water a hover can't pass under them. The only two redeeming qualities of the entire area is the people, they for the most part, are warm and friendly, and the fact that on what should have been the busiest days of the year there are very few boats on the lake so it's pretty desolate. If you’re looking for a fun place to hover I would recommend you stay away from Rend Lake. About the only thing they have to offer is multiple prisons. Big Muddy, Pickneyville, Centralia, and Menard, to name a few. Seriously, give me a better reason to come to Southern IL.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Redneck Fishing Tournament 2012

After last years crazy event I thought I would try to get back down to the Redneck Fishing Tournament this year with a Camo hover. So my partner Gary Hartman of G&M Motorsports will be joining me in Bath. Betty has offered to let us fly our hover between heats on Friday and Saturday as a bit of a show so we decided lets do it. After last years tournament we decided to take our hover out on the river up north of Bath to see how the Asian Carp responded to us. The results were interesting and if you show up at the Redneck this year you will see what we mean. Remember August 3 & 4 it is an event you need to be at. We will also be introducing a new program that will help anyone own a hover. We hope to have 3 or 4 hovers at the tournament this year so make sure you stop by and see us. If your interested in taking a test flight in a hover drop me an e-mail and we'll see if we can work it in during the tournament.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Draught a new experience

Boaters beware don’t follow me I’m going where you can’t. I would like to hang that sign on my hover right now. I see the water levels of many rivers around me dropping and boaters are limited to smaller and smaller areas due to prop and hull damage. One of the cool things about the hover is you don’t need water and if you are flying on water you don’t need much of it. When draughts come as they seem to do on a regular cycle hovering becomes and even more exciting experience. Flying over new sand bars discovering sunken treasures that are normally covered by water now we have access to those areas and if they happen to be mud flats they become an unexpected new experience. Flying of smooth flat mud provides you with a fast ride. Mud can be nearly as fast as smooth ice I was flying on the Pecatonica river which is notorious for its silt and I sort of forgot what I was on and jumped out of the hover when I set it down and sunk up to my knees in mud, so you have to be careful when you’re landing on the mud flats it can be more annoying than dangerous but it does make a real mess in the hover. So if your living in an area with draught or a lot of mud flats head out with your hover and have fun you are in for a really great day hovering.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Navarre Florida

On a recent trip to Florida we were hosted by an awesome team at the Hampton Inn & Suites. The room was a spacious King Suite and the staff was incredbile. Everyone there was polite and helpful. The room was always clean and every evening there were fresh baked cookies for the guest. You typically don't find this type of motel in a chain but the Hampton staff was top notch. They have every reason to be proud of there motel and their team of personell. My hat is off to them. If you are ever in Navarre or have plans to be in Pensacola or Destin Florida make the Hampton in Navarre your motel of choice.
Read more about our Navarre Florida Hover trip soon we have an awesome anouncement coming that will be a first in not only Florida but in the USA.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mississippi Savanah IL

There are a few places I especially like to fly and the Miss by Savanah IL is one of them. The river in this area is especially divers with mud flats, backwater pools, and open channels. The views on the river at this location are awesome all the way up to Dubuque with high cliffs and sheer rock walls. This past weekend provided me with a brief adventure into the backwater of this area. My friend Gary from G & M Motor Sports located in Thomson IL took me out on a short ride in his new Hovertechnics Hoverstar LC. The craft has a 100 HP Rotax Liquid cooled engine and plenty of room for two adults plus gear. We were out for about an hour and a half and it was interesting to note that where ever Gary looked he just went. We were able to fly into some areas that Gary told me he hadn't been able to get back into in years because his boat couldn't go through the stuff we were flying over. This was his first time out on his new hover and I was giving him a few pointers on what to do and how to manuever through some of the areas. We stopped in a pool isolated from the rest of the river by mud flats and tall swamp grass. As we sat there discussing some of the potential of the hover in his area he pointed out some of the wild life around us and said, "Just think all the people out here on the river today can't enjoy this and most don't have a clue it is even here. That's the beauty of owning a hovercraft it allows you to go where others can't" what an awesome statement and that's why at TLS WindSled we have a saying, "Where everyone else has to stop we're just getting started" I would like to invite you to come join us at the edge of adventure! Hovering is an experience you really do need to try. If you would like to have your own adventure contact me from my web site at

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mississippi River a new pilot is born

A few weeks ago a person called me and asked a few questions about hovercrafts. He asked if I had any used hovers available and I told him I had one Hoverstar SP with a 100 hp motor. He asked if I could bring it up to show him how it operated. After making our arrangements we set the date, however the weather did not cooperate and we had to postpone it until March 10, 2012. This year has been extremely warm for winter in our part of the country and ice has been almost non existent, I was hoping he would be able to provide me with some solid ice to fly on instead of just cold water. It didn't look promising since it was supposed to be 60 at the location of our outing. My grandson Zach agreed to ride along with me and help me with the demonstration. What that typically means is he gets to ride along on the hover so he jumped at the chance. Zach was not disappointed he did indeed take a hover ride with us. Old Miss was running clear at the point we were going to enter the river however the bays and backwater was still frozen so we really got the best of both worlds. I entered the water from a boat ramp with about a 20% grad and Gerald our host was curious if the hover could make it up and down the ramp. I pointed out a couple of hills leading down to the river and told him if he wanted to he could fly his hover up those and load and unload from the street above. To say the least he was impressed. However talk is cheap and we needed to back it up with some action. I powered up the hover and flew out for a quick warm up round on the river. The hover responded beautifully so I turned back toward shore and landed on the nice sandy beach that bordered the park we were launching from. Several people stopped by to take a look at us hovering around, which is pretty typical. I loaded up Gerald and Zach gave a few instructions to Gerald about what we would do and he pointed to a bay covered with ice and said let's head over there. This bay was about a mile in diameter so it was plenty big enough to cruise around on as I approached the ice rim I slowed the hover and just as we were touching the rim I throttled up and brought the nose of the hover up on the ice. I knew my passenger was impressed when the transition was smooth and we were gliding across ice to thin to hold a mans weight. I followed the ice for a while then headed for the shore line were there was some waiting swamp grass and we flew up on the shore and settled down and I shut the hover off for a minute to explain what we were going to do next. Gerald was looking around and said land to water to ice to land and back this is amazing. This thing can climb hills too why would anyone not want to have one of these? By this point I knew we had a new hover pilot. Gerald wanted to take the hover out into open water so I asked him if we could get through or did we have to go back out the way we came? He said "I don't know I've never been able to get back into this area before" so I said let's go check it out. With that I powered up the hover again and headed back out onto the ice. Darn no other way to get back out so we headed back up toward the opening of the bay. As we were crossing out into the bay I noticed a cut away along the shore and thought it might lead out to the open channel but by then we were already on water so I figured we would just continue on. Turning into the open channel we cruised about a mile up river and I brought the hover to a stop, shut the engine off, and said "people always ask if these can float when the motor is not running" the answer to that would be yes since we are sitting here floating. I then explained to Gerald that the Hovertechnics LC models were very stable and I could install a fishing platform and stand or sit on that and fish from any point around the hover if I wanted to. After discussing a few more points about hovering on water I fired up the engine again turned the hover slowly back down river throttled up and rose up on cushion again. I found the opening to the little cut away I had spotted on our way out of the bay and decided to take it as a short cut back to our launch point. Back on shore I explained to Gerald that one of the things I personally like about hovering is that if you are flying and want to check something out the only thing you have to worry about is how much time and fuel you have, you don't have to worry about water depth, ice, rocks, logs, or all the other things that a boat or snowmobile have to worry about you just look at it and fly to it. I could tell my passenger was still not sold on hovering so I asked Zach to stay on shore while I took Gerald back out I then asked Gerald if he would like to fly it. He hesitated a moment then said sure. I gave him a couple of quick instructions about how I would communicate with him and off we went. Without any prior experience in a hover Gerald was able to fly out onto the water engage the ice shelf and make some pretty impressive maneuvers on the ice.
When we got back to shore I asked Gerald if he was ready to buy? He said I'm not sure let's talk on the way back to the house. Interestingly enough most of his conversation was about how he would do this and that with his hover. When we got back to the house he instructed me to back the hover into his barn next to his Harley. And with that a new hover pilot was born. Welcome to hovercraft my friend.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rescue Hovercraft Ice Rescue

I recently spoke with a states Senator about utilizing hovercrafts for a certain project. In the course of the conversation he asked me if the hover can go over fast moving water and what the impact was on the hover. I explained to him that the current only provides a slightly higher cushion and enhances performance. He then asked me if it would travel over ice, at that point I realized he really had no idea what a hover can do so I took the time to explain it to him. His first question after that was, "has the local fire department talked to you about buying one of these?" I smiled and said "I have contacted everyone of them in the area and none of them have bought one yet!" he shook his head and said, "They keep asking me for money to buy a boat, the next time they ask I'm going to tell them to contact you because this makes more sense than a boat." He is right the correct hovercraft makes an excellent rescue vehicle. However it has to be the right hovercraft. The Hovertechnics Hoverguard series covers a wide range of sizes from 12-20 foot and can handle a wide range of duties. Hovertechnics hovercrafts are rated at certain load capacities by the US Coastguard however they are capable of a much higher load capacity. I'm not saying over load but what this hover offers is the ability to over perform if you are operating within the range allowed. If you are allowed 600 lbs. and the hover can physically lift 800 then you will not have a performance issue at 600 lbs. I practice a lot when I'm out flying and have successfully maneuvered single and twin prop hovers into positions to perform rescues under various conditions. Ice rescue is always tricky and requires pinpoint accuracy on the approach, the Hoverguard 600 with a 100 HP engine and variable lift can put you into a position to retrieve a victim. The beauty about using a hover for ice rescue is that you never have to leave the safety of the hover. From what I've read and after talking with some 200 rescue workers the typical ice rescue is approached in a couple of ways when there is no hovercraft available. One they utilize a rescue suit that protects the rescuer from the elements then they use ropes, and or ladders, and rubber boats to crawl across the ice to the victim. Now if the ice is thin enough for a person to fall through then it cannot be driven on so most other forms of vehicles are excluded from the rescue at the point of extraction of the victim. The impact of the hovercraft on the surface is minimal, I heard one person explain the pressure on the surface is compared to a seagull standing on one foot. I have spoken with rescuers that have crawled as far as 100 feet to get to a victim, and I'm sure this is not the furthest anyone has had to crawl to rescue a person. This is extremely time consuming and dangerous and when you have a person in frigid waters and time is a huge factor you don't want to waste it but, you have to be careful and consider the safety of the rescuer, the last thing you want is to wind up with more people in distress. I spoke with one department that described a recent rescue they were involved in that took them 45 minutes from the time they arrived on the scene until they were able to rescue the individual. When they told me what they had to do I then described to them how a hover would be used in the same situation. I said you arrive at the scene, you release your tie down strap, you start your hover, pivot the trailer, accelerate fly from the point of unload, onto the ice, out to the person. Without having to get out of the hover you reach over the low sides secure the victim, pull them into the hover and fly back to the point of the waiting rescue vehicle. Based on what the rescue worker told me the entire time to retrieve the person would have been about 3 minutes versus 45 minutes. The rescue workers involved would have been two not 10 or what ever it took so you reduce the number of people at risk. The rescue workers can stay in the unit or if they have to get out they do so at the point of extraction and then once they retrieve the person they reenter the hover and fly back to the safety of the shore. The 12 foot Hoverguard 600 is so steady that you can stand on the edge of it and it will not flip so two rescue workers can extract the person in peril and pull them to safety. I think the Senator was correct in his assessment of the need for a hovercraft for rescue purposes.  In my next blog post I'll discuss the use of hovercrafts in assisting flood victims.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Blowin in the wind

In years past I considered getting involved in flying ultra lights, one thing that turned me away was the limited fly time due to wind. Recently someone told me they heard you couldn't fly a hovercraft in windy conditions. Interesting I thought a WindSled that couldn't operate in the wind. The truth of the matter is you can fly a hovercraft on windy days, the real question is why? A hovercraft will be affected by the wind, but so is a car or a semi truck each has it's peculiar reaction to the wind. A semi truck can be overturned if the wind is too high, a car may be tossed around by the wind, and the same is true of a hovercraft. So why fly? If your flying for fun and your having to buck a high wind would you bother? Probably not, however if you are a rescue worker and have to fly your hover to perform a rescue then you would and could. The question now become how high of a wind can you fly in? So many questions and so many different answers. A smaller hover may be able to be operated more effectively in a higher wind than a larger hover simply due to the mass you are moving. I own a twin prop 16 foot hover that has a lot of mass, when flying in the wind it works like a giant sail on a boat and the wind pushes it around a lot. My smaller Hoverjet GT a 10 foot hover, flies with relative ease in wind speeds around 20 simply because it has a lot of power with much less mass. Another consideration is the surface you are flying on. If you are on open water the larger hover with it's weight, size, and power, which in the case of my twin prop is 340 HP, plows through the waves with ease, I can fly it in chop of two to three foot waves and just plow through them. My GT is tossed around a lot in that high of waves either climbing them or plowing through them so you find yourself battling the waves and it is not a very fun ride. The point of the matter is I have never been stopped by flying due to the wind I have just chosen at times not to. I would be fairly confident to say you could operate a Hovertechnics hover in winds up to around 50 mph if you had to but again the question is why? If I had to use my hover to rescue someone I would if I was doing it to have fun I doubt I would fly it under a wind much over 20 mph simply because it wouldn't be fun. I can fly my hover in the rain but again why would I? Bottom line is you can fly a hover in the wind but you're going to be blown around by it and remember everything has it's limits.   

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Potomac River and Conquering my fears part 2

Call me a sissy but I am here and now admitting to one of my greatest fears... Spiders. That's right not just a spider but a lot of spiders, creepy, crawling, and ugly and as I reached up my hand the log above my head was covered in them. Now was a moment of decision do I let my male passenger who is a rescue worker and I'm sure has faced many dangerous situations find us crushed between a log and the rushing water or do I reach up grab the log and push us off to the side. What to do? Well in that moment my mind and reflexes sprang into overdrive and I realized if I didn't reach up and push us away from that log I would be pinned in that spot with all those creepy spiders dropping into my hover and then crawling all over me. So in one heroic moment I reached up and with cat like speed I pushed us away gunned the engine and broke out from under the log and into a boulder patch that was nothing short of a train wreck of boulders in front of me. I thought I can face this at least it's not covered with spiders. With that I attacked the boulder field and had to raise my hover up on cushion turn sharply and then set it down to move past the next boulder. The entire field of boulders ran about 35 feet and was like a maze of rocks in from of me with just enough room to slide my hover past it. I was satisfied with the hovers performance and maneuverability. By now I was working my way around the lack of power in my engine and we were able to get through the boulder field with relative ease and all I could think about was that nasty log filled with spiders.