• Short Summary

    July the 25th marks the 20th anniversary of the first crossing of the English Channel by a Hovercraft - a vehicle that rides on a cushion of air.

  • Description

    July the 25th marks the 20th anniversary of the first crossing of the English Channel by a Hovercraft - a vehicle that rides on a cushion of air.

    SYNOPSIS: This is the first model -- the SRN1 -- in 1959. It weighed four tons and carried three people. There was widespread interest in the British creation, then a new, and revolutionary form of transport, able to travel both on land and over water.

    Nine years later, in 1968, the model SRN4 had begun commercial passenger service on the 25 mile Channel crossing between England and France. It could carry 250 passengers and 30 cars at speeds up to 70 miles an hour (nearly 115 kilometres an hour). British engineers had to overcome considerable development problems -- and by the early 1970's were the only ones to have produced a true range of Hovercraft. After initial interest in the early sixties, development in other countries slowed down, in the face of the technical problems.

    The Hovercraft was the brainchild of one man, Sir Christopher Cockerell -- on the right -- here celebrating the tenth anniversary of the first Channel crossing. Originally an electronic engineer with minor interest in boat building, he made the discovery while experimenting with ways to reduce drag on a boat hull. He patented the design in 1955 and a year later founded the company, Hovercraft Limited. Sir Christopher's first experiments with the concept were made using coffee tins and pair of kitchen scales. But he rapidly formulated advanced theories, some yet to be explored, which have helped Britain maintain a lead in the development of the craft.

    In Vietnam, the Hovercraft principle was used on active military operations. The American-made Air Cushion Vehicles, heavily armed, were based on Hovercraft design. They operated with some success in the flat, marshy land of the Mekong Delta. Other armies use Hovercraft, usually for carrying troops ... and there are plans to build Hovercraft to carry aircraft; for work in minefields and for missile launching.

    Commercially, the use of Hovercraft has been limited to carrying passengers across stretches of water. After experimental trials in various countries, including the United States, the existing service from France to England is the only one that has survived for longer than a season.

    The success of the cross Channel operation has resulted in the virtual closure of competing air services. Twenty years after the first crossing, this modified, larger version of the SRN4 is carrying 400 passengers and ??? cars on the 25 mile trip -- with a newer version now being built.

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    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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    Available on request
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