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Over hill, dale and water too! New Range vehicles ready to go

29 October, 2004
Hilltop Times (Hill Air Force Base)

by Shad West

Response times for Fire and Emergency Services at the Utah Test and Training Range will be dramatically reduced, thanks to the addition of two [Neoteric] hovercraft to the range’s arsenal of response vehicles.

The vehicles, designed for initial response to an incident or emergency, can carry a total of six emergency personnel and one patient. The first vehicle is a two-person hovercraft that can transport a driver, a medic and a patient on an attached stretcher. The second hovercraft can carry a four-person team or two firemen, an explosive ordnance disposal technician and a spare spot for an additional person or equipment.

In the past, emergency responders at the range used trucks and All Terrain Vehicles. Depending on the location of the accident site, response times could be as long as three hours.

“Using the hovercraft, we can launch our response from Oasis rather than getting on the access road and heading toward Wendover on I-80 and then up into the range,” Fire Chief David Kallman said.

Range Director Ron Short said that time is of the essence when getting to a downed pilot during an aircraft accident.

“Most of the terrain under the UTTR consists of mudflats. During wet months, traversing across the range is extremely difficult even with ATV’s,” Mr. Short said. “The hovercraft provides the capability to move across any soil condition with speeds up to 40 mph.”

An added benefit of the hovercraft is their capability to traverse across water. Hovercraft actually fly on a 10-inch cushion of air making them the perfect response vehicles for Utah’s west desert terrain.

“The Salt flats are full of crevices and holes filled with water that slowed our response times down, even with ATVs,” Chief Kallman said. “The hovercraft will actually glide over the uneven terrain.”

Use of the hovercraft isn’t limited to aircraft crashes. Fire and Emergency Service personnel support Tooele County and the surrounding communities via a mutual aid agreement. The vehicles can be used for search and rescue operations, and to respond to vehicle accidents along the I-80 corridor.

“Last winter there were about 25 accidents where people ended up in the canals along I-80,” Chief Kallman said. “Tooele County emergency responders had to send for boats after their initial response. With the hovercraft, we’ll be able to get to the victims a lot faster.”

Utah Test and Training Range rescue hovercraft picture
UTTR firefighters recently took their emergency response hovercraft vehicles to Pineview Reservoir for training.
Photo by Shad West

Currently Chief Kallman and fire fighter Cory Lingelbach are teaching the other range emergency personnel how to drive the hovercraft.

“We were certified at instructor level by the manufacturer,” Chief Kallman said. “Everyone else is required to have six hours of hands-on training and 10 hours of academic training.

“They can be hard to drive,” he added. “In my 20 years as a fire fighter, I never thought we would be using anything like these. They are state of the art.”

After trying to train personnel near the Grantsville lime plant, which accelerated wear on the skirting that traps the air under the hovercraft, the UTTR firefighters recently took the vehicles to Pineview Reservoir.

“We decided to use Pineview to save wear and tear on the skirting,” Chief Kallman said.

When stopping the hovercraft, the air they float on dissipates and the craft either sit on the land or in water, much like a flat-bottomed boat. Using a body of water to train the other drivers on prevents the rough treatment that the skirting gets when starting and stopping the hovercraft.

“Pat Crezee and her staff in the parachute shop manufactured three complete sets of skirting for us after we wore the initial skirting during our certification training. They really came through for us. They prevented any down time we may have had and saved us $1,500 in replacement costs.”

While the hovercraft are an important aspect to emergency response operations at the UTTR, Oasis personnel hope that they won’t have to use them.

“It’s good to have the equipment necessary for a timely response,” Chief Kallman said. “Hopefully, we’ll only need to use them for training.”

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

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