I have been building and operating my own hovercraft, with my wife Anne being a willing passenger, for many years, but have recently given up the activity due to other commitments. I do have another craft under construction and I may eventually get back into the activity.
The Midwest Hovercraft Club no longer meets as the original members have "retired". Here is some information that may be helpful for anyone considering purchasing or building a hovercraft.
Most hovercraft are home built. If you are handy with tools then you can build one from about $2500 - $12000 including new engines. If you have the engines then you are looking at around $1500-$4500 for the rest of the materials.
You may be able to find a ready built hovercraft occasionally, but most of them are probably in other states, such as MN, and you will have to go and collect them. Used craft sell for $3500 upwards and generally $6000-$18000 or more is typical.
You can buy manufactured models too if you have more cash to spend. You can pay from a few thousand for home built second hand to around $23000+ if you want the top end models!
Cruising hovercraft are the most common in the USA and are capable carrying one or more people depending on the design. You can also build racing craft although you will have to travel across states to compete.
Hovercraft typically cruise at 20-60 mph depending on the design and engine power. Simple 4 cycle engines or lightweight car engines can be used.
They are perfect for use on water, now, ice, mud, and other reasonably flat surfaces. They can run over rutted surfaces as long as the skirt maintains the seal to keep the lift air pressure high enough to make the craft hover.
I hover on the Platte River, NE because it has shallow water with plenty of sandbars to transition across.
Hovercraft are uniquely different to other water and land craft in that they can handle almost any surface proving it is reasonably flat. Thin ice and soft mud are doable, and they also use very little power to hover and cruise, which makes then slightly different to an air-boat, although they are very similar in some ways.
There are very few hovercraft around in Nebraska, mainly because very few people have seen on or know about them. Most hovercraft are home-built from plans and so it takes a particular type of practical person to attempt the build; which is actually not all that difficult. Modern hovercraft are often made of builder's foam insulation, fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin, or from plywood, fiberglass cloth and polyester resin. Polyester resin is cheaper, smelly and fast setting, and eats foam. Epoxy resin has little smell (but you still need to wear a respirator to avoid allergic reaction over time), is more expensive, easy to work with and slow setting and will not attack the cheap insulation foam used for construction. Take one step at a time and it is not really difficult.
Look up Universal Hovercraft, or Sevtec Hovercraft and you'll find lots of info, plans, kits and completed craft. The nearest get-togethers, or Hover-Ins to Nebraska and Iowa happen at Muscoda, WI twice a year and you can expect to see 10-30 hovercraft attending, and usually get a ride if you ask. It can also be a place to purchase a secondhand hovercraft. Also check the Internet for lots of build logs that will show you the steps in constructing a hovercraft. It's all out there if you spend a little time surfing.
Purchasing a second-hand hovercraft is also a great option, especially if you are not wanting to get into the DIY side.
There are also Yahoo Groups - Hoverlovers, etc that you can join and ask questions, and find help and advice.
Hovercrafting is great fun, especially on reasonably flat surfaces, like grass, concrete, asphalt, snow, ice, mud, soft mud, shallow water, sand, sandbars, etc. They will also hover over deeper water, but large waves can upset the efficiency of the craft by breaking the seal under the skirt. Smooth water is fun however. The craft are most efficient on the harder surfaces and also on shallow water. Getting started on deeper water is a bit like starting a motor boat, in that you have to move the craft forward at more that 7 mph approx to overcome the displacement depression caused by the weight of the craft displacing its weight in water, i.e the craft sitting IN the water. Once you achieve over 7 mph approx then the hovercraft will glide over the surface in much the same way as it does over land, as the weight is no longer in the water but held up above it on the hover cushion. During the sub-hump (less then 7 mph) it can get a bit wet as the air escaping under the skirt sprays water up providing a cooling shower effect (very pleasant on a hot summer's day). The spray is left behind once the hovercraft is past the hump speed.
Hovercraft can carry heavy weights, providing the weight is spread evenly across the craft and depending on the surface. Moving items or people around can have a great effect in improving performance. I've cared three large adults (including myself) and a deer in my 15 ft craft over watery mud and ice. Carry the same load in water would involve trying to get about the hump speed, but if that can be achieved then the craft would then hover across the water, so choosing the hovering surface for a given weight is important. Lighter is always more efficient in hovercrafting.
I hope that this info is useful to you. Hovercrafting is uniquely different and is great fun!
If you'd like more information about hovercrafting on the Platte River, NE then please email me. Also if you see any problems with the website do please let me know.
I've recently stopped hovering due to other commitments but I am happy to advise anyone considering hovercrafting as a pastime.
If you have any questions, please contact me.
Thanks for looking at this site.
Here is a link to a short video showing us hovering on the Loop River in Nebraska, USA
Here is a video of a news report by Channel & News showing a Deer Rescue using my hovercraft, to pull three deer from the mud on Lake Zorinksy. The lake had been drained over the winter to kill off an invasion of Zebra mussels. The deer had walked on the thawing ice and fallen through into the deep mud
You can view the Deer rescue above. It the link does not work then try searching YouTube for Hovercraft,Crews Save Lake Zorinsky Deer.
The club no longer exists as I'm now the only hovercraft operating in the area. Contact me if you'd like details for local hovercraft activity. I build my own and occasionally have one for sale.