Why did we start to design and build a human powered hovercraft ?
For Ourselves, because we considered that it would be within our capability to do, and because of our location in the centre of London, far from any airfield, but close to a river, the Thames. Hence we would be able to operate near our base, which we could not do with an aeroplane. For the Planet, because we would be able to demonstrate yet another activity which can be done without burning fossil fuels, ie the activity of hovering.
The SBW was tailored to suit one fit young man, Aleksi Halkola. Yet, to our delight, we have found that everyone who has tried to hover with it has been successful, including a leukemia survivor and one 69-year old with arthritis in one leg so bad that he could hardly walk. The hardest part is getting in and out. Dozens of people of all ages, both genders, and emanating from several parts of the globe have become airborne under their own leg-power alone in the Steam Boat Willy. Chris Padmore kept it up for over half and hour.
The craft, of our original design, is built mostly of Styrofoam, spruce, carbon-fibre and balloon fabric. Our first hover was indoors. Since then we have hovered in many places including off the beach onto the water and back. We have demonstrated at the Hovercraft Museum and at the Royal Aeronautical Society.
SBW is being continually developed, and improved. The latest modification is to the skirt. Watch this space for future developments, or for any news of this human powered hovercraft operating at a location near you.
If you know anyone else with a similar craft, we would love to have a race. As far as we know the nearest thing anything like it is in Tallahassee, Florida.