The first big hovercraft was devised and constructed to carry passengers across the English channel, a fitting start for the country who invented the air cushioned concept vehicle. Of course, it wasn't too long before the military became interested in the possibilities, which is ironic as they were presented with a working model when it was first invented. The Navy didn't want it because it wasn't a ship. The Army had plenty of vehicles, some of them amphibious, and the Air Force were not interested in a craft that could only lift itself a few feet off the ground.
A long time after it's inception, the hovercraft started to become attractive to the leisure industry, particularly in recent years when new materials have allowed economic construction of small personal hovercraft. The new materials are stronger, cheaper and much more durable, making the production of smaller craft for racing and fun an obvious next turn for the industry. Racing hovercraft are very popular and have a superior power to weight ratio. They accelerate fast and can travel at up to 80 km an hour. Operation is very different from bikes, cars or even boats, so it's a very specialist activity to get involved in.Hovercraft Materials and Construction
Hull construction has had a major re-think by designers. For one thing, the old way of using glass fiber just couldn't continue. The craft were certainly light but they were very rigid and fragile. If such an air cushioned craft happened to hit an obstacle with any kind of force, it would certainly split the hull. Depending on the size of the split, it would either have to be replaced or repaired by an expert, which can be very expensive according to the extent of the damage. New material scan really take a knock or two. Of course, they may get scuffed or dented, but they don't split, being fabricated from high density expanded plastics.
Hovercraft skirts are another important feature of these vehicles that have had a major overhaul in concept. Originally made from rip stop sail cloth, modern skirts are now constructed from Kevlar and neoprene coated cross lap material. The new materials are extremely difficult to tear by normal means but of courses it can happen. The new way of fabricating skirts is to mount them in sections, so that if one part is damaged, that small section can be changed without removing the whole skirt.
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