I have been passionate about hovercraft for as long as I can remember and I thought this year that Iíd find out about the various kinds of leisure hovercraft out there in the market place. I was amazed at some of my discoveries and share some of these findings with you in the hope that other people go down the wrong path when looking to buy a hovercraft.
The internet is always a great place to start and so I checked out eBay to find out what was on offer. The hovercraft I found there were not very new, built by amateurs (self built) and mostly designed for racing, which meant they looked good, but there were serious safety considerations.
After a short search I did buy a small hovercraft and paid under £3000. It was good looking and I was informed by the owner that it was great fun to operate, so I bought it Ė I soon regretted the purchase. First of all all, it was tricky to down from the trailer, and even tougher to get back on! It need two strong men to do either operation. It was very noisy and people that lived nearby complained very quickly and regularly. Safety factors were minimal Ė for example, thereís no grill to cover the rear fan, so you had to be constantly careful.
The craft ploughed constantly, regardless of whether moving on land or water. I was thrown forward roughly several times and it would be easy to get hurt. Another disconcerting feature was the fact that the steering didnít have much effect Ė control was very poor. The overall design wasnít really suitable for marine use (no stainless steel parts, for instance) and the build quality was low.
Imagine my surprise when after stopping on water, it started taking on water. There was no underside protection at all, so if we stopped on a rock, there was a chance of cracking the hull. The engine was hard to start and had to be pulled many times before firing. there was not cover over the engine, which obviously got hot in use. To cap it off the seat provided was just a lump of fibre glass and really uncomfortable to sit on.
I took the hovercraft out just a few times as it just wasnít safe Ė basically, I didnít want to be responsible for the safety of my friends and family. I put it up for sale and was many weeks before I found a buyer at a price much lower than I paid. I kept looking for a personal leisure hovercraft which was safe and obviously well designed and visited another well known hovercraft manufacturer This is what I found:
They were selling so-called Ďnewí hovercraft with used engines bought from a scrap yard. It was crazy, who would buy such a thing? We wouldnít buy a car with a used engine, so why would we buy a hovercraft? The hovercraft hulls were manufactured in smaller segments and then fastened together. At best, itís an unsafe practice, although not covered in any of the regulations covering hovercraft manufacture.
Safety obviously wasnít at the top of their priority list. They didnít fit a grill guard to either side of the fan cowling as they said it created turbulence and reduced the top speed. For me, I would rather loose a couple of mph and be assured that nothingís going to get stuck in the fan blades (like me!) I knew about plow-in and asked about it. I was told that it was just a part of hover crafting Ė they all do it and you just have to live with it! This just doesnít sound right, as itís downright dangerous Ė imagine having kids in the craft.
Their factory didnít look well organized and I wasnít impressed at all, knowing factory layouts well and could see no sign of any quality control system. I guess I should have asked how they control their build quality, which is essential to make sure that all craft are thoroughly checked at each stage of manufacture so that craft with faults just donít get out the factory door.
As for handling, I was told to throw my weight from side to side to make sure it got round the turns OK! I was also a bit concerned about the quality of the parts being used, as some of them looked low quality and quite frankly, a bit shoddy. I tried to contact the company later to ask about spares and back up, but they were very difficult to get hold of and late in replying to emails, so I gave up.
I didnít want to just give up so I checked our a list hovercraft manufacturers her in UK and found Hov Pod in Southampton. When I entered their name into Google, lot of good stuff came back and their website has lots of great info about their products. There are a lot of videos and they have been featured on National TV many times Ė they are not beginners!
I seemed to have stumbled across an outfit that manufacture exactly what Iím looking for, a leisure hovercraft thatís a lot of fun and safe, doesnít plow-in and can be steered with my little finger (almost)! Itís easy to get on and off the trailer and it also looks sexy. I filled in the website form for more info, wondering what the price was, and I the contact was returned really fast .I was impressed with the staffís professional approach staff.They obviously knew a lot about hovercrafts and knew all about the issues I had with other low quality hovercraft models.
They asked me down to Southampton so I could take a ride for myself, and I was a little surprised to find that the Hov Pod was far superior to the others. The smoothness of the ride, the responsiveness of the controls were impressive, and it actually went around corners when your steered it with the handlebars.
It wasnít noisy and the seat was really comfortable, it was obvious the manufacturing quality was really high. The design is great and they donít plow-in, which is a massive plus for me. I started to drive it and turning around in tight circles like a pro in 5 minutes or so. Moving from land to water and vice versa is effortless - I really like the way it handles and itís good looks. Iíd found my perfect personal hovercraft.
The Hov Pod cost is more than many other models of the same dimensions but then again the others canít equal the quality of the build and the advanced specs. To eliminate plow-in is huge, huge plus, and itís the result of several years designing and testing. You get what you pay for Ė the cost of a the Hov Pod equates to reliability, safely and the highest quality Ė my friends and family have an exciting time and we love it.
I bought the Hov Pod in Ď04 and itís got 30 hours on the clock. Itís been all over the country, and I never had a complaint from anyone about noise or nuisance. The engine has given absolutely no trouble. Itís flown over sand flats and beaches, seawater, mud flats, grassy meadows, gravel beds, tarmac roads, rive estuaries, and .
All the Hov Pod components are brand new, and the hulls are manufactured in a well known boat builder close to Southampton. The engines are built to aviation standards and reliability is their strong point. The quality of manufacture is is real top notch and safety King for once. Handling is efficient and tight turns can be negotiated without throwing your weight from side to side. The hovercraft skirt is very tough and a piece of cake to keep in order, like all the other maintenance.
The hull is double skinned and extra protection is provided by solid numbers, which gives you a lot of confidence if you are right out at sea. The advanced features are abundant Ė I couldnít possible detail them all here. Best bet is to find out for yourself and see how much better the Hov Pod hovercraft is compared to the rest.
Poist sales service leaves nothing to be desired and any spares you might need are quickly obtained, and not too expensive, which is nice. I give Hov Pod top marks for the highest quality hovercraft manufacturer there is Ė highly. Have a look around an then come back to the leader. Itís really worth while in the longer term Ė it will still be running long after some competitorís models have given up.
I sincerely hope this gives you a little help in choosing a personal hovercraft and that my story saves you some time and money. Hov Pod is the planetís newest and most technologically advanced small hovercraft around. Rescue and patrol organizations canít be wrong!
Author: Jim Bruce
Rating: 9 out of 10