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A hovercraft , also known as an air-cushion vehicle or ACV , is an amphibious craft capable of travelling over land, water, mud, ice, and other surfaces. Hovercraft use blowers to produce a large volume of air below the hull, or air cushion, that is slightly above atmospheric pressure. The pressure difference between the higher pressure air below the hull and lower pressure ambient air above it produces lift, which causes the hull to float above the running surface. For stability reasons, the air is typically blown through slots or holes around the outside of a disk- or oval-shaped platform, giving most hovercraft a characteristic rounded-rectangle shape. Typically this cushion is contained within a flexible "skirt", which allows the vehicle to travel over small obstructions without damage. The first practical design for hovercraft was derived from a British invention in the s to s. They are now used throughout the world as specialised transports in disaster relief, coastguard, military and survey applications, as well as for sport or passenger service. Very large versions have been used to transport hundreds of people and vehicles across the English Channel , whilst others have military applications used to transport tanks, soldiers and large equipment in hostile environments and terrain. Although now a generic term for the type of craft, the name Hovercraft itself was a trademark owned by Saunders-Roe later British Hovercraft Corporation BHC , then Westland , hence other manufacturers' use of alternative names to describe the vehicles. Often referred to in the plural as 'Hovercrafts', the correct plural is 'Hovercraft' in the same manner that 'aircraft' is both singular and plural.
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Skip navigation! Story from News. The cover of Life magazine features a photo by a young woman in a clothing shop as she looks in a mirror and holds a shin-length skirt up over her mini skirt, August 21, After two men took upskirt photos of Gina Martin , she began a campaign to make it a sexual offence. I remember, as a year-old, my teachers checking the length of my skirt. As girls, we were made to wear skirts, and I was largely OK with it apart from the fact that I desperately wanted to run and roll around at lunchtime just like the boys did. Skirts were to be worn modestly or 'decent' as Mrs Stanway would say, wagging her knuckly finger, and it became clear to me that skirts meant 'girl' and trousers meant 'boy'. I had to wear one and — I realise now — at 13, it was up to me to alter my clothes in order to not be sexualised by someone else. Growing up, I saw skirts everywhere. My teachers wore skirts; Olympians wore skirts; my favourite pop stars wore skirts.

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A hovercraft , also known as an air-cushion vehicle or ACV , is an amphibious craft capable of travelling over land, water, mud, ice, and other surfaces. Hovercraft use blowers to produce a large volume of air below the hull, or air cushion, that is slightly above atmospheric pressure. The pressure difference between the higher pressure air below the hull and lower pressure ambient air above it produces lift, which causes the hull to float above the running surface.

For stability reasons, the air is typically blown through slots or holes around the outside of a disk- or oval-shaped platform, giving most hovercraft a characteristic rounded-rectangle shape. Typically this cushion is contained within a flexible "skirt", which allows the vehicle to travel over small obstructions without damage. The first practical design for hovercraft was derived from a British invention in the s to s.

They are now used throughout the world as specialised transports in disaster relief, coastguard, military and survey applications, as well as for sport or passenger service. Very large versions have been used to transport hundreds of people and vehicles across the English Channel , whilst others have military applications used to transport tanks, soldiers and large equipment in hostile environments and terrain.

Although now a generic term for the type of craft, the name Hovercraft itself was a trademark owned by Saunders-Roe later British Hovercraft Corporation BHC , then Westland , hence other manufacturers' use of alternative names to describe the vehicles. Often referred to in the plural as 'Hovercrafts', the correct plural is 'Hovercraft' in the same manner that 'aircraft' is both singular and plural.

There have been many attempts to understand the principles of high air pressure below hulls and wings. Hovercraft are unique in that they can lift themselves while still, differing from ground effect vehicles and hydrofoils which require forward motion to create lift.

The first mention in the historical record of the concepts behind surface-effect vehicles that used the term hovering was by Swedish scientist Emanuel Swedenborg in Shaped like a section of a large aerofoil this creates a low pressure area above the wing much like an aircraft , the craft was propelled by four aero engines driving two submerged marine propellers, with a fifth engine that blew air under the front of the craft to increase the air pressure under it. Only when in motion could the craft trap air under the front, increasing lift.

The vessel also required a depth of water to operate and could not transition to land or other surfaces. It was thoroughly tested and even armed with torpedoes and machine guns for operation in the Adriatic.

It never saw actual combat, however, and as the war progressed it was eventually scrapped due to the lack of interest and perceived need, and its engines returned to the air force. The theoretical grounds for motion over an air layer were constructed by Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovskii in and In , Andrew Kucher of Ford began experimenting with the Levapad concept, metal disks with pressurized air blown through a hole in the center. Levapads do not offer stability on their own. Several must be used together to support a load above them.

Lacking a skirt, the pads had to remain very close to the running surface. He initially imagined these being used in place of casters and wheels in factories and warehouses, where the concrete floors offered the smoothness required for operation. By the s, Ford showed a number of toy models of cars using the system, but mainly proposed its use as a replacement for wheels on trains, with the Levapads running close to the surface of existing rails. In , Finnish aero engineer Toivo J. Kaario never received funding to build his design, however.

Because the project was classified by the U. The idea of the modern hovercraft is most often associated with a British mechanical engineer Sir Christopher Cockerell. Cockerell's group was the first to develop the use of a ring of air for maintaining the cushion, the first to develop a successful skirt, and the first to demonstrate a practical vehicle in continued use. Cockerell came across the key concept in his design when studying the ring of airflow when high-pressure air was blown into the annular area between two concentric tin cans one coffee and the other from cat food and a hair dryer.

This produced a ring of airflow, as expected, but he noticed an unexpected benefit as well; the sheet of fast moving air presented a sort of physical barrier to the air on either side of it. This effect, which he called the "momentum curtain", could be used to trap high-pressure air in the area inside the curtain, producing a high-pressure plenum that earlier examples had to build up with considerably more airflow.

In theory, only a small amount of active airflow would be needed to create lift and much less than a design that relied only on the momentum of the air to provide lift, like a helicopter. In terms of power, a hovercraft would only need between one quarter to one half of the power required by a helicopter. Cockerell built and tested several models of his hovercraft design in Somerleyton, Suffolk, during the early s.

The design featured an engine mounted to blow from the front of the craft into a space below it, combining both lift and propulsion. He demonstrated the model flying over many Whitehall carpets in front of various government experts and ministers, and the design was subsequently put on the secret list.

In spite of tireless efforts to arrange funding, no branch of the military was interested, as he later joked, "the navy said it was a plane not a boat; the air force said it was a boat not a plane; and the army was 'plain not interested. This lack of military interest meant that there was no reason to keep the concept secret, and it was declassified. Cockerell was finally able to convince the National Research Development Corporation to fund development of a full-scale model. N1 , short for "Saunders-Roe, Nautical 1".

The SR. In addition to providing the lift air, a portion of the airflow was bled off into two channels on either side of the craft, which could be directed to provide thrust. In normal operation this extra airflow was directed rearward for forward thrust, and blew over two large vertical rudders that provided directional control.

For low-speed maneuverability, the extra thrust could be directed fore or aft, differentially for rotation. N1 made its first hover on 11 June , and made its famed successful crossing of the English Channel on 25 July N1's controls. He flew the SR. N1 so fast that he was asked to slow down a little. On examination of the craft afterwards, it was found that she had been dished in the bow due to excessive speed, damage that was never allowed to be repaired, and was from then on affectionately referred to as the 'Royal Dent'.

Testing quickly demonstrated that the idea of using a single engine to provide air for both the lift curtain and forward flight required too many trade-offs. N1 Mk II. Further modifications, especially the addition of pointed nose and stern areas, produced the Mk IV.

Although the SR. The solution was offered by Cecil Latimer-Needham , following a suggestion made by his business partner Arthur Ord-Hume. In , he suggested the use of two rings of rubber to produce a double-walled extension of the vents in the lower fuselage. When air was blown into the space between the sheets it exited the bottom of the skirt in the same way it formerly exited the bottom of the fuselage, re-creating the same momentum curtain, but this time at some distance from the bottom of the craft.

Latimer-Needham and Cockerell devised a 4 feet 1. N1 to produce the Mk V, [14] displaying hugely improved performance, with the ability to climb over obstacles almost as high as the skirt. In October , Latimer-Needham sold his skirt patents to Westland , who had recently taken over Saunders Roe's interest in the hovercraft. What actually happened is that the slight narrowing of the distance between the walls resulted in less airflow, which in turn led to more air loss under that section of the skirt.

The fuselage above this area would drop due to the loss of lift at that point, and this led to further pressure on the skirt. Instead of using two separate rubber sheets to form the skirt, a single sheet of rubber was bent into a U shape to provide both sides, with slots cut into the bottom of the U forming the annular vent. When deforming pressure was applied to the outside of this design, air pressure in the rest of the skirt forced the inner wall to move in as well, keeping the channel open.

Although there was some deformation of the curtain, the airflow within the skirt was maintained and the lift remained relatively steady. Over time, this design evolved into individual extensions over the bottom of the slots in the skirt, known as "fingers".

Through these improvements, the hovercraft became an effective transport system for high-speed service on water and land, leading to widespread developments for military vehicles, search and rescue, and commercial operations. With the introduction of the passenger and 30 car carrying SR. N4 cross-channel ferry by Hoverlloyd and Seaspeed in , hovercraft had developed into useful commercial craft. Another major pioneering effort of the early hovercraft era was carried out by Jean Bertin 's firm in France.

Bertin was an advocate of the "multi-skirt" approach, which used a number of smaller cylindrical skirts instead of one large one in order to avoid the problems noted above.

During the early s he developed a series of prototype designs, which he called "terraplanes" if they were aimed for land use, and "naviplanes" for water. The N could carry passengers, 55 cars and five buses. It was rejected by its operators, who claimed that it was unreliable. Another discovery was that the total amount of air needed to lift the craft was a function of the roughness of the surface it travelled over.

On flat surfaces, like pavement, the needed air pressure was so low that hovercraft were able to compete in energy terms with conventional systems like steel wheels.

However, as the hovercraft lift system acted as both a lift and very effective suspension, it naturally lent itself to high-speed use where conventional suspension systems were considered too complex. In the U. These designs competed with maglev systems in the high-speed arena, where their primary advantage was the very "low tech" tracks they needed. On the downside, the air blowing dirt and trash out from under the trains presented a unique problem in stations, and interest in them waned in the s. By the early s, the basic concept had been well developed, and the hovercraft had found a number of niche roles where its combination of features were advantageous.

Today, they are found primarily in military use for amphibious operations, search and rescue vehicles in shallow water, and sporting vehicles. Hovercraft can be powered by one or more engines. Small craft, such as the SR. N6 , usually have one engine with the drive split through a gearbox. On vehicles with several engines, one usually drives the fan or impeller , which is responsible for lifting the vehicle by forcing high pressure air under the craft.

The air inflates the "skirt" under the vehicle, causing it to rise above the surface. Additional engines provide thrust in order to propel the craft. Some hovercraft use ducting to allow one engine to perform both tasks by directing some of the air to the skirt, the rest of the air passing out of the back to push the craft forward. The British aircraft and marine engineering company Saunders-Roe built the first practical human-carrying hovercraft for the National Research Development Corporation , the SR. N1, which carried out several test programmes in to the first public demonstration was in , including a cross-channel test run in July , piloted by Peter "Sheepy" Lamb, an ex-naval test pilot and the chief test pilot at Saunders Roe.

N1 was powered by a single piston engine, driven by expelled air. Demonstrated at the Farnborough Airshow in , [18] it was shown that this simple craft can carry a load of up to 12 marines with their equipment as well as the pilot and co-pilot with only a slight reduction in hover height proportional to the load carried.

N1 did not have any skirt, using instead the peripheral air principle that Christopher had patented. It was later found that the craft's hover height was improved by the addition of a skirt of flexible fabric or rubber around the hovering surface to contain the air. The skirt was an independent invention made by a Royal Navy officer, C. Latimer-Needham , who sold his idea to Westland by then the parent of Saunders-Roe's helicopter and hovercraft interests , and who worked with Christopher to develop the idea further.

The first passenger-carrying hovercraft to enter service was the Vickers VA-3 , which, in the summer of , carried passengers regularly along the north Wales coast from Moreton, Merseyside, to Rhyl.



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