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How Hovercrafts Work

Find out hovercrafts work in this special feature...


A vehicle that travels above the surface land and water. The term 'hovercraft' is actually a commercial name patented in 1955 for an air-cushion vehicle.


Hovercrafts work on the two main principles of lift and propulsion.

When dealing with a hovercraft, the existence of lift is imperative for the proper function of the vehicle. Lift is an essential factor because it is that which allows the craft to ride on a cushion of air several inches off the ground. This process, the process of attaining lift begins by directing airflow under the craft.

In order to trap the air under the air cushion, a skirt is required. This is done in order to create pressure under the hovercraft which forces the vehicle off the ground. Attaining the proper amount of airflow is imperative for the maintenance of the craft’s stability.

If too much airflow is directed under the craft, it will then hover too high above the ground, resulting in the hovercraft to tip. Not enough lift will cause the craft to remain on the ground which defeats the very purpose of the hovercraft altogether.

The source of the airflow which propels the craft off the ground is a fan. The fan can be used for lift and thrust. It can be dedicated to lift or thrust or even both simultaneously. In either case, the passage where the air flows through to reach the air cushion affects the stability of the hovercraft. This passage is a hole located on the base of the craft.


The concept of a hovercraft has been around since the 18th century. The craft was created to reduce the drag on ships and boats as they cut through the water. But it wasn't until the early 20th century that hovercrafts became a reality due to the advent of the internal combustion engine.

In 1956, a British engineer named Christopher Cockerell created an operational air-cushion vehicle from a prototype model involving a coffee tin, an industrial air blower, and some kitchen scales. Today, hovercrafts are widely used in ferry transport and have a sizeable recreational audience.


Specification of the Burnham-On-Sea Rescue Hovercraft

Photos of the Burnham-On-Sea Rescue Hovercraft

Official Burnham-On-Sea Hovercraft Web site home page



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