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Wave of the Future

Boating on the Hudson
20 March 2002

By John H. Vargo

The Neoteric Hovertrek hovercraft is one of the most unique vehicles I have ever been witness to…

It is Saturday morning, December 29, 8 a.m. I am at the Mystic Beach Firehouse in Mystic, Long Island awaiting the arrival of Chris Fitzgerald, President of Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc., the company that manufactures this unique aircraft. As you will see the Hovertrek is more an aircraft than a boat, yet it has many of the characteristics of a boat as well.

Bill Biondi, the Chief of the Mystic Beach Firehouse -- friendly, informative and very proud of his 34 years with the Mystic Beach Firehouse -- is anxiously awaiting Chris Fitzgerald's arrival as well. The Mystic Beach Firehouse is one of the best-equipped installations that I have ever seen. The new Hovertrek will fill a need that neither the Suffolk County Police Department's airboat or helicopter can fill.

As Bill Biondi is quick to point out, the well-equipped firehouse allows the residents in Mystic to receive a triple A bond rating with the lowest possible home insurance premium. This due to all the equipment and fire apparatus the fire department possesses. The department has approximately 80 members with 45 active volunteers. It is equipped with boats, fire trucks, surplus military trucks, and every conceivable type of equipment needed for any emergency.

Just as Bill finishes giving me a tour, Chris Fitzgerald arrives in a white van with Indiana license plates. Behind his van is a two-wheel trailer with a covered hovercraft, slightly salt stained from its trip from the Neoteric factory. A very polite, intelligent individual, Chris introduces himself to everyone present, walks around the trailer and removes the cover. What is revealed is something that looks like a bat mobile: 12 feet long, shiny red and equipped with red emergency lights, a search light, head lights and a PA system. It looks like something that is ready and waiting for the next emergency.

Chris explains the entire unique vehicle by pointing out each feature. From the instrument panel with its switches and gauges, to the upside down Polaris snowmobile engine that drives the multi blades that are the Hovertrek lift and thrust, this is an interesting piece of engineering.

Once Chris took Bill Biondi and the other firemen who were standing around through all the features of the Hovertrek, we went into one of the well equipped training rooms for a class on this hovercraft and what makes it tick.

As Chris began the class it became apparent that this was no salesman, but an engineer who had a lifetime of experience in hovercraft. He pointed out all the advantages of hovering, but was quick to point out exceptions as well.

Fact: A hovercraft is more an aircraft than a boat yet can be registered as a boat.

Fact: this particular hovercraft can carry four passengers with a total weight of 800 lbs.

Fact: Three men can sit on one side when the Hovertrek is dead in the water and it will not tip.

Fact: the Hovertrek can travel over sand, dirt, and water, as well as ice.

Ice is where the Hovertrek shines and is the main reason that the Mystic Fire Department became interested in hovercraft. There are quite a few times each winter when a combination of ice and open water make ice rescue operations almost impossible when someone is stranded in the six miles of marsh and open water that makes up the shoreline of Mystic Beach, Long Island. Fog or bad weather can prevent the Suffolk County helicopter from flying, and a flat bottom boat, the traditional method used in rescue, can be slow and/or impossibly dangerous to the rescuers as well as the person being rescued.

Thus the need for a vehicle such as a hovercraft. What makes the Neoteric Hovertrek completely different than any others in the world is its patented reverse thrust system behind the propeller guard. The reverse thrust buckets give the Hovertrek the ability to back up, and to have control that no other manufacturer of hovercraft has come close to. (During the investigation for this story I questioned a number of owners of other hovercraft. One individual in particular who had operated a Neoteric Hovertrek as well as other makes said, "The Hovertrek is number one in total control!"

After two and a half hours in the classroom it was time to go to the beach for a real demonstration.

The hovercraft trailer, like the rest of the vehicle, is simple to unload. Captain Biondi and Chris Fitzgerald put on their winter clothes and headphones so that they could communicate between themselves and be heard above the noise of the engine.

Chris was quick to point out the number one rule in learning to fly a hovercraft: Pick an imaginary point straight ahead of you and do not take your eyes off of it as you increase power.

The propeller forces a portion of the air down and around the skirt located on all sides. The balance of the power is used for forward motion.

While on shore Chris was quick to point out the ease with which a section of the skirt could be replaced. He yanked on it and a section came off with a broken tie wrap. This tie wrap is designed to break at 50 lbs. of pull. This protects the skirt from being torn. The tie wrap acts like a shear pin in a propeller.

They spent at least two hours on the water, first with Chris at the controls then Bill cautiously taking the helm to get the feel of it. The wind was blowing about 15 miles per hour and it was an overcast day. While the wind has an affect on a hovercraft's performance, the reverse thrust system on the Neoteric Hovertrek allows the driver to have excellent control. At one point Chris took the hovercraft up one of the many creeks meandering through the area, then backed out, showing the Hovertrek's unique abilities.

This particular hovercraft, equipped as it is, was approximately $27,000.00 and was acquired by the Mystic Fire Department through a grant.

In doing this story on hovercraft, I found some interesting background by searching the Internet: Everyone who owns a hovercraft is passionate about it! They all seem to work with each other in improving their vehicles and meeting at Hoverins held in different parts of the country. The hovercraft chat rooms on the Internet are huge, and once you are hooked up in one it will go on forever.

Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc. offers various Hovertrek models, available either fully assembled or in partially assembled hovercraft kits.

Could the Neoteric hovercraft catch on as the jet ski has?

Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc.
1649 Tippecanoe Street Terre Haute, Indiana USA 47807-2394
Telephone: 1-812-234-1120 / 1-800-285-3761 Fax: 877-640-8507

www.neoterichovercraft.com / www.rescuehovercraft.com
E-mail: hovermail@neoterichovercraft.com
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