On This Day 57 Years Ago – Is it a boat, is it a plane, no it’s a flying saucer!

On 11th June 1959 a revolutionary new form of transport which can operate on sea and land is officially launched in the Solent off the south coast of England! The hovercraft, can be described as a cross between an aircraft, a boat and a bus which marks a new era in passenger travel by sea.

Dubbed a man-made flying saucer, the hovercraft is propelled on a cushion of air created by its own fan power which means it hovers just above the waves at sea and avoids any irregular surfaces on land. The inventor, Christopher Cockerell, began working on a hovercraft model in the mid 1950s. He said he first came up with the idea when he was thinking how to make a boat go faster by reducing the amount of friction caused when it travels through the water. He first tested the hover theory using a cat food tin inside a coffee tin with an industrial air blower and a pair of kitchen scales.

In 1955 he convinced the Ministry of Supply to back him but he was not able to commercially develop the product immediately as his idea had been placed on the government’s secret list because of its potential benefits to the military. In 1959 Christopher Cockerell managed to get his idea removed from the secret list and obtained funding from the National Research Development Council of £150,000 to develop a practical hovercraft with a view to offering overseas travel smoother and faster than passenger ferries at a similar cost.

The experimental model built by Saunders Roe was 29 feet long and 24 feet wide and weighed just over a quarter of a ton. Following today’s launch of the SRN-1

the builders announced that it is now planning a prototype up to ten times as big and weighing 40 tons. The hovercraft has controls very similar to those in a helicopter and can definitely reach a speed of up to 25 knots (28.7mph) but it is estimated that this will eventually increase to over twice that which means it may be able to cross the English Channel in as little as 20 minutes.

Dubbed a man-made flying saucer, the hovercraft is propelled on a cushion of air created by its own fan power which means it hovers just above the waves at sea and avoids any irregular surfaces on land.
Dubbed a man-made flying saucer, the hovercraft is propelled on a cushion of air created by its own fan power which means it hovers just above the waves at sea and avoids any irregular surfaces on land.
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