Hovercraft Soon to be Added to Central
Indiana’s Search and Rescue Arsenal
WISH TV 8, Indianapolis, IN
By Eric Halvorson
INDIANAPOLIS - Central Indiana is about to get an amazing new weapon for its search and rescue arsenal. 24-Hour News 8 spent the day in Terre Haute learning more about the new hovercraft coming to town.
The concept surprises people. They ask,
why does central Indiana need one of
these? Once you've seen one in
action, you begin to understand.
Chris Fitzgerald often has the Wabash
River to himself because it can be
too shallow for anything but his
"It doesn't really matter how deep the
water is or whether there are rocks
or ice or snow," Fitzgerald
That's because the hovercraft literally
hovers nine inches above the surface.
"A hovercraft doesn't know any difference
between land and water," Fitzgerald
It's that amphibious quality that makes
the craft so appealing to rescuers. It moves
from water to land on a cushion of air. It's
a simple concept that's very complicated to
"It takes us about 600 hours to produce a
craft," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald is still trying to develop the
hovercraft market. But he knows firefighters
and police departments appreciate these
machines, especially once they learn how to
"They tend to be a real ego buster in the
hands of a novice," Fitzgerald said.
That's why it takes hours of training,
ultimately learning the spins and other
techniques that will give the "pilot" the
skill needed for rescue maneuvers.
Fitzgerald said a hovercraft shows its
value in situations that would be off-limits
to any other vehicle.
"If you can use some other vehicle, than
you don't need the hovercraft. It's sort of a
The big difference, though, is it's much
less expensive and much safer to use,"
If they needed to rescue someone in
trapped in debris during a flood, the
hovercraft could swoop right to the victim to
be pulled on board to safety.
The new hovercraft will be bigger than the
one News 8 tested and, while it will be kept
at an Indianapolis fire station, the craft
will be available for emergencies across
It's a $57,000 machine paid for by a
federal Homeland Security grant.