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Thursday, 6 August 2015

Hovercraft

Trained as a development engineer, Sir Christopher Cockrell began work on the hovercraft in 1953, carrying out his early experiments on Oulton Broad, Norfolk, England. He patented his prototype air-cushion vehicle two years later after experimenting with a tin can and vacuum cleaner.

Cockerell tested various ways of maintaining the air cushion. In 1957 he came up with the idea of a flexible skirt, which gave rise to much derision because nobody could believe that a piece of fabric could be made to support a large vessel.

During the idea’s development phase, Cockrell was so hard up he had to live in a caravan and pawned his mother-in-law’s engagement ring.

Cockerell was able to convince the National Research Development Corporation to fund development of a full-scale model hovercraft. In 1958, the NRDC placed a contract with Saunders-Roe for the development of what would become the SR.N1, short for "Saunders-Roe, Nautical 1".

The SR.N1 made its first hover on June 11, 1959 in front of the assembled press showing its capability to cross both land and water. It made its famed successful crossing of the English Channel six weeks later with the inventor on deck. The date was July 25, 1959 - the 50th anniversary of Louis BlĂ©riot's cross-channel flight. The crossing took two hours.

SR.N1

80 million people used hovercrafts to cross the Channel before they were taken out of service in 2000 because of competition from the Channel Tunnel and newer 'super ferries.' 

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