Appeals: The Hovercraft Museum

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The Independent Online
The SRN1 Hovercraft (Saunders Roe Nautical 1), the world's first experimental hovercraft, designed in 1958 by Sir Christopher Cockerell, who is now patron of the Hovercraft Museum. Founded in 1986, the organisation is gathering together old hovercraft and their historical artefacts in order to create a museum planned to open in 1997, at a disused naval base on the river Solent, writes Joanna Gibbon. It intends to display the SRN1, which at present belongs to the Science Museum.

The SRN1 was launched in 1959 at Cowes, Isle of Wight, and hovered from Calais to Dover in the same year, taking about two and a half hours to complete the journey. The SRN1 was used as an experimental craft, and with extra fittings it carried up to 35 people. The hovercraft's engines - or lift fans - work like giant hairdriers, sucking in air from the top of the craft and pushing it out, under high pressure, beneath. The air lifts the hovercraft up as high as 10ft and propels the machine along: there is no contact with whatever surface - water, ice, sand, tarmac - the hovercraft travels over, although most are best adapted to sea, lakes and rivers. The concept developed quickly and by 1968 the world's biggest hovercraft, the SRN4, weighing 205 tons, able to carry 249 passengers and 32 cars, was in service crossing the English Channel.

The museum has been given Swift, a 25- year-old SRN4 which has been out of service for over three years; it is now trying to raise the remaining pounds 5,000, out of a total of pounds 40,000, to move the craft from Dover to the Solent. This is a complicated manoeuvre, involving towing Swift for 120 miles: the craft is in need of engineering and structural repair and cannot hover over the distance. Once in place, Swift will form part of the museum and will house some of the smaller hovercraft.

For further information, contact: The Hovercraft Museum, 15 St Mark's Road, Gosport, Hampshire PO12 2DA, telephone 0705 601310.