Exploit invention

Your article on the hovercraft shows again how a brilliant UK invention has not been exploited or developed much beyond being a fast, short-trip sea ferry.

Your article on the hovercraft (Backpage, 28 July) shows again how a brilliant UK invention has not been exploited or developed much beyond being a fast, short-trip sea ferry.

To my knowledge both the US army and navy are investing heavily in the development of hover assault craft and fast multi-terrain vehicles. Why has our government waited 50 years to fund further development?

The government-backed development group is not the only UK concern looking at fan-based hover technology.

A company called Hovertrans has developed and built several diesel electric, fan-based hover barges suitable for payloads of up to 500 tonnes, using fan air pressures of less than 70millibar (one psi). They are essential where oil exploration and drilling needs to be carried out in countries with vast areas of swampland and the frozen wastes of northern Russia.

These barges are not self-propelled and rely on various means of towing and winching to traverse difficult terrain. This unique ability makes the hover barge the only vehicle available for moving very large units of engineering equipment in these areas.

You may be interested to know that a 250 tonne payload hover barge, (pictured below) – specifically built to operate in temperatures of -60C – was recently built at the Ferguson Shipyard in Port Glasgow, where it is being completed.

David McCullagh

Ferguson Shipbuilders

Port Glasgow

In view of your ‘This week in 1965’ feature and the recent TV series, Ice Road Truckers, may I suggest that if there was ever an ideal application for a low-ground pressure all-terrain vehicle capable of carrying 100 tonnes, then this is it.

Hovercraft may be noisy and expensive, but surely they are less expensive than the £20m it costs to build the

Ice Road

– and far less likely to sink.

Many thanks for an excellent read.

Howard Bradfield

Materials engineer