At the 2016 HoverShow Steam Boat Willy was one of the main attractions.
Michael Milburn who has in the past been a passenger and also a pilot became the carrier of a passenger by carrying Luca Wright. Luca then hovered himself and became a pilot. Also Alan Benfield hovered himself for the first time. Chris, now 79, hovered several times.
Posted on [21st Aug 2016]
Human Powered Aircraft at Sywell Aerodrome
For the latest Team Score results at the BHPFC Competition see
Posted on [16th Jul 2016]
On 1st November 2014, Chris and Simon and Michael all hovered. The craft performs as well as ever. Chris said " Well now that I am 77, that makes me the oldest hovercraft engine in the world ". There is building work going on at the Hovercraft Museum and it was very windy outside, but we made a few circuits inside the main hangar.
Posted on [1st Nov 2014]
Naomi Strachan, Michael Milburn and Chris Roper each hovered SBW briefly on Tuesday 10th November.
Posted on [8th Dec 2013]
SBW still exists
It's been so long since I posted any news, that I thought I had better tell you that SBW is still functioning and so are the team - but not often together these days.
We're busy with other things ( including a different hovercraft ) but we expect SBW to be performing at the next HoverShow.
Posted on [10th Apr 2013]
New photos added
There are some new pictures of the craft on the Thames in this websites gallery. These show the craft being taken out of its transport box and assembled. Also the speck of sand that caused such a problem on that day.
Videos of Steam Boat Willy on other websites.
Apart from what we have put up onto YouTube, these are without our permission
Many, in fact most, of them contain comments such as
"Yes, but don't stop pedalling when over water, else you'll sink."
The true fact is that we had actually considered this before we started building.
The frame was designed to have adequate bouyancy. It floats.
We have tested this. Deliberately stopped pedalling while over water.
It floats. When you start pedalling again it starts to hover again.
Actually, initially, we had envisioned launching the craft in the same manner as a canoe off the towpath of a canal. Put the craft in the water, then step onto it. Float. Then start to hover. We have only ever done this the once just to prove that we can. Every other time we have hovered down a beach or a slipway.
Posted on [3rd Sep 2012]
As usual, our craft performed at the HoverShow
Those who became Hovercraft Engines ( type human )
for the first time were :-
See videos of Jem's hover here and
another one here
You hear the sounds of all the fun of the HoverShow and see the now retired Cross-Channel Hovercraft in the background.
This was the second craft that Jem had pedalled into the air.
The first was his aeroplane, as can be seen on BBC 1 at 7.30
today Bang Goes The Theory
Posted on [30th Apr 2012]
Another wondeful show of hovercraft at Lee-on-Solent. (All the other craft had engines.) The wind was horrendous so we were restricted to demonstrating in a hangar. We carried several passengers. On Saturday Francesca Hayter, on Sunday :- Jason Nash, Archie Emery and Finley Barfoot and on Monday Arron Hopwood, Sean Dyer, Finley Powell, Leo Walters, Cameron James Robinson and Dylan Baker. Our craft is a single seater. the passenger has to carefully balance on the frame, and the pilot has to pedal extra hard,
Pilots at the show were Simon, Chris, Michael and Philip O'Brian, the son of Tim O'Brian who, at over 18 stone (118 kg) is probably our heaviest.
. link here then scroll down to see an eariler passenger trip
Posted on [3rd May 2011]
Hovercraft hovers inside Hovercraft
When does a hovercraft hover inside another hovercraft ?
When it lives there.
Yes, Steam Boat Willy has a new home.
SBW is now permanently at the Hovercraft Museum, Lee-on-Solent,UK, and
is currently inside the SRN4 Princess - that is the big beast that for thirty years did the cross-channel run.
SBW has been active at the Museum before and will continue to be so.
We moved it there today and it became airborne inside the Princess under the leg power, first of Michael (10 years old) and then Chris (73 years old).
The Hovercraft Museum Trust are providing us with facilities to continue the development of the craft.
Posted on [8th Jan 2011]
First father and son
Another great HoverShow today, in bright sunshine. As you may have guessed from the surnames on our list of new pilots and passengers, often members of the same family hover in SBW for the first time on the same day.
But one after the other.
However, today, Phil Wilkinson piloted and carried his son Joe Wilkinson as passenger. Both were new to SBW.
Also today:- Joshua Carlisle and Shayna Cree, passsengers and William Martin, a new pilot.
Posted on [18th Sep 2010]
Whiteley Village Eco-Event
Today at Whiteley Village, near Winchester, we had a whole coach-park to be able to demonstrate in at this event, thanks to Al Menzies. Thanks also to all those who helped us demonstrate by being plucky enough to have a go themselves. Brian Franklin(passenger), Mark Renyard, George Ward, John Simpson, Wayne Williams, Andy and Nick Taylor, Elliot, Jorga and Jemima Raine(passengers), David Raime, Toby and Matthew Steward, and Ulrike and Roger Munford.
And particularl thanks to Jess Broom who helped us effect a repair to the craft.
We used the extension seat today, this makes it easier for shorter people to reach the pedals and be comfortable. The craft as a whole was made to suit 6'2" Alexi. The extension seat was made to suit 5'2" Kana Miyagi.
Despite gusty wind conditions, all new pilots made good flights.
Posted on [11th Sep 2010]
More new pilots
Today , August 1st at the Hovercraft Museum, these people became hovercraft engine/pilots for the first time by pedalling SBW :-
Philip O'Brien, Siegfried Lenz, Sam Tripp, Alex Tripp, Mike Sharman, Scott Forbes, Magnus Bender, Lee Comerford, David Salter, Michel Salter, Susan Henley, James Henley, Jamie Kingh, Luke Jeffries, Bill Sharp and David Callaway.
Also Michael Milburn, now age 12, gained more experience with the controls as he piloted the hovercraft forward.
Posted on [1st Aug 2010]
New Pilots and Passengers July 2010
At Portsmouth July 17 ( see report below), the following people became airborne under their own legpower alone for the first time in SBW :-
Alan Burgess, James Morgan, Beau Bulchers, Macauley McDonald, M.J.C.B., Jack Campbell, Matt Damper,Gail Harrison, Neil Harrison, Peter Parkinson, Chloe Rowsell, Keri Fisher, Sam Richardson, Cheryl Richardson, Steve Richardson, Brad, Elliot, Dan, Steve, Jake, Miles Fletcher, Ross Underwood, Louie Morris and Chris Collier,
and the following had their first passenger ride on SBW :-
Sammy Burgess, Mollie Gallagher, Alexander Damper, Kalsang Tsering, Sophie McLatchie and Rafael.
and on the 18th July at Lee-on-Solent ( see report below) the new pilots were:-
Ethan George, Florine, Martin Harding, Ellie Harman-Taylor, Wynand, Isaac, Harry Bird, James Gibbons, Joshua Gibbons, Kieren, Tony Kerley, Andrew Hopkinson, Nick Dilley, Robert Dilley,
and new passengers that day were:-
Ben and Sian.
Posted on [19th Jul 2010]
Portsmouth Green Fair Aug 17
An eco-event at Portsmouth. Nice sunny day. Nice crowd. Maybe you were on the mainline rail Waterloo to Portsmouth and looked out of the window and couldn't believe your eyes when you saw what looked like a pedal-powered hovercraft. Don't worry, nothing wrong with your eyes, that was SBW.
All was going well, and a lot of people had had their first hover, and quite a few more were hoping to do so, when "Crack ! Oh ! No! ", someone's foot slipped getting in and their foot went through the centre deck one side, then they tried to regain their balance and "Crack ", their other foot went through the centre deck the other side. Disaster ! Show stopper !
Maybe - but not for us. The show must go on. Pass the tape, stick it up.
There I was sticking bits of tape, while doing the jigsaw of the shards of deck-pieces,
and we hadn,t even looked at the bottom. I didn't know how badly damaged the bottom was yet. Do the top anyway. Sufficient unto the day... Then we looked at the bottom. His foot had narrowly missed some vital structure. A cotton tape had broken. Do that up with tape too.
Within twenty minutes we were hovering again.
Simon doing hectic looking manoevers, new people having their first go.
All operational again.
And the guy came back and said "Sorry ".
All in a day's demonstrating.
Sunday 18th at Hovercraft Museum.
Another great HoverShow,
It was back in 2007 on 5th September that we proudly anounced that SBW had carried a passenger, Ethan George who was then 6 years old.
Today, we proudly announce that Ethan, today for the first time, did his own pedalling in SBW as pilot ( and engine ).
Quite a few other people also became hovercraft engines for the first time.
Posted on [18th Jul 2010]
FINGERS IN LINE
I expect you all know Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.
Well, its been proved true with regards to us trying to get the fingers on the craft's skirt to be all touching the ground at the same time.
At last we are getting somewhere - about time too !
This is how we eventually did it after trying out various other methods :-
First we made legs for the craft such that the frame is held at the same height as when hovering. Then someone gets in and pedals, but not quite hard enough to hover. So, the bag fills but the craft stays in one place - not hovering all over the place as it usually does. This means that the precise out-of-alignment of each finger can be observed, and that it stays in one place long enough for you to work on it and correct it.
Now, inside the bag part of the skirt we had fitted a number of internal cords. By adjusting the length of the cords, we were able to slightly modify the inflated shape of the bag. This lifts, or lowers the fingers in the vicinity of the cord.
We've just done it - it works.
Then we took the legs off just to check that things were really OK when we were really hovering. They were OK.
I, Chris, was aboard for this, and we noticed that one cord had not been adjusted. Simon tried to but declared that it was impossible because I "just wouldn't stay still", when I was really hovering, and not just on the legs.
Posted on [2nd Feb 2010]
Japanese Version of This Site
For a Japanese version of this site
then select hovercraft.
Posted on [28th Dec 2009]
Testing Indoors Continues
No long trips ! We have the craft indoors and are hovering it statically. We have been closely examining the skirt while it is hovering. This has enabled us to find how to tweak it to reduce wasteful air leakage. We even get underneath while it is hovering to get a better view. These tests and adjustments continue.
Posted on [22nd Dec 2009]
WE ARE NOT ALONE
Yes, we are not alone, there is another human powered hovercraft in Britain.
More news of this, as we learn it - if they want to tell it.
Meanwhile, back at Steam Boat Willy HQ, we are now hovering indoors.
We decided to do this as the best way of being able to adjust the skirt so that it is even all around the perimeter. The floor is flat indoors, and it is getting cold outside.
Posted on [31st Oct 2009]
Hovering at Climate Camp
At Climate Camp, Blackheath, London, today, the SBW was hovered by one hundred and three people , one hundred and one of them for the first time.
The new-today hovercraft pilots are listed here:-
Gareth, Richard, Margot, Shade, J. Tadea, J Tomlinson,Lee, Neil , Tim , Bobb, Tim, Joie, Jill, Philip, Brian, Julian, Jeuksy,Richard , Andrew, Katherine , Kevin Cach, Luke, Duncan, Tim , Nick Sellen, Elly Stevens, Aurora, Marika , Angus, Ed , Sophie, Neil, Toni (passenger), Simon, Luke, Kester, Donna, Lauren, Saloza, Frank, Ivan(passenger), Jonathan, Huw, Rowan, Xavier, Milo, Paul, Natt, Tom, Naomi, Alex, Liam, Flo, Chris, Caroline, Neil,Gareth, Carlos, Thomas, Kayte, Rory,Gordon, Jana, Jarvist, Peter, Like,Colin, Bob, E Carla, Casey, Druzed!,Wojtek,Martin, Aura, Joshua, Jonathan, Sam, Naomi, Lois, Rob, C. Campbell, P. Krekora, Preety,Patrick, Adrain, Richard, Heather, Jenna, Naomi, Oscar, Lydia, Harvey, Emily, Kieran, Anthony, Stuart, Joha, Jack, Simon, Markos, Colin and Lucy.
( If we have missed your name off, or got it wrong, or you would like your surname included, please let us know)
Although the craft was tailored for 6'2"" tall Alexi, it was noticeable that the lighter and smaller people found it easier to hover.
This was also the first time we really tested the experimental elliptical chainwheel, and the big tarpaulin that we laid over the grass. Thanks to all who enabled this to happen.
Apart from first-timers, Simon and Chris hovered a bit ourselves too, and were really impressed with the other things going on at Climate Camp, especially the wind-turbines.
Posted on [31st Aug 2009]
SBW was at the HOVERSHOW
You gotta believe, it wasn't just a good show, it was a great Show.
The pitch allotted by the brilliant show organiser Warwick Jacobs to SBW was between a hovercraft used by the Queen and Prince Philip and the stall of the Hovercraft Search and Rescue UK link here Two of these lifeboat-hovercraft pilots Alan Orchard and Bill Allen had a go on Steam Boat Willy and both made a creditable performance.
Lots of other incredible things happened.
A family came by with a pair of dogs. The smaller one seemed quite docile. I must have been madder than usual because I said "Pass me that dog" while sitting in the craft. The dog was duly passed across and calmly sat on my lap while I gave it a short flight. I then handed it back and was promptly told, "Ah, now you must carry the other one or else it will be jealous." The other dog was appreciably larger, and for all I knew appreciably fiercer, but when you're at a Show you have to keep the public happy. So, next, I had to carry the big dog too, but I am still here to tell the tale.
The wind was horrendous the whole time. But nevertheless, we took the craft to the arena and Simon did a couple of circuits, which, with the wind being what it was, impressed me - and the rest of the crowd.
Thanks for the help from Lewis Harris of the 6th Gosport Air Scouts, Malcolm Whapshott, Simon Durant, Louise Deane and lots of others.
But I haven't told you about Michael Milburn.
See picture of him in this website's gallery.
Michael, now 9, was our second passenger. At the show he asked "Can I pilot it ?".
Michael is 4 foot 6. (13.716 decimeters) The craft was designed for someone 6 foot 2. (18.796 decimeters) It was obviously impossible, so I said "Sit in it, and you will see that your feet just won't reach the pedals."
So he did - and proved me wrong - he took off.
Later that day he was again a passenger, and then on subsequent days did more flights as pilot. Getting better each time.
There is no such thing as impossible, just things we haven't done yet.
It was a dog, not a pig, so I can't claim "Pigs can fly", but I can claim
that Michael Milburn is the youngest human ever to become airborne under his own leg-power alone.
Posted on [27th Jul 2009]
With help from Monique the modifications continued, and today Sunday with help from Andrew, Bethany and Robert we rigged the craft and tested it with the new bow extension. It all worked fine. We tested it a week before the HoverShow to give us time to make any adjustments. But none are needed. See us hovering at the Show
Friday 24th July upto Monday 27th July
or back at the Mews
on Sunday 2nd August 3pm
or Monday 3rd August 7pm
Posted on [19th Jul 2009]
36 x 36 SUDOKU SOLVED
At last, we have a winner of the biggest size Sudoku anywhere.
With only a fortnight before the competition closes,
Godard Jean-Claude sent in a correct solution.
Godard lives in Bois d'Arcy in the Yvelines (near Versailles), France.
If there is anyone out there still puzzling with it, here are some clues :-
The words MUSCLE, LIFTER, DURING, DETOUR appear in the solution.
Sudoku comp ends at end of July
(unless hordes of folks scream loudly that they want another one).
BUT, we have a totally different non-hovercraft item on the site, namely
the fairy story :-
. A Week in the Life of Little Red Riding Hood.
Posted on [17th Jul 2009]
Max Shepherd visited us. See picture in galleries. This is the guy who along with a couple of fellow pupils built a pedal powered hovercraft while he was still at school in Florida. ( See our History section). His friend Dylan Harris also piloted the Florida craft. Picture also shows Paul Standeven, native of New Zealand who has piloted Steam Boat Willy in England. So - we had three continents represented.
Posted on [8th Jul 2009]
In the workshop
There's a lot been done, there is more to do before we can be hovering again.
We have amended the whole bow section of the skirt, we have repaired damage to the frame and pads.
We have started amendments to the skirt at the aft end.
We have yet to complete this, to repair the propeller tips ( again ), and to extend the transport box for the longer craft.
The sooner this is done the better, because we want to be hovering again.
Posted on [9th Jun 2009]
Modifications in progress
Its all indoors now and partly in pieces.
We are working on modifying the skirt of the hovercraft.
The skirt has been completely taken off, giving us an opportunity to inspect the frame. This will be our fourth skirt arrangement.
We have started cutting and sewing
We also have a few other ideas that will be incorporated.
Posted on [17th Jan 2009]
End of Season -Start of Major Works
Karina, Chris and Simon each had our last hover of the year today, at the West Reservoir. We have decided to take SBW to the workshop for some experimental modifications. Our motivation is as much to use the craft as a test-vehicle for the ideas as much as in the hope that they will make it perform better. One is a device to even out the cyclic variations in torque from pedalling, the other is an attempt to control the trim of the craft. Will they both work ? Don't know yet. But you've got to be in it to win it.
Posted on [17th Nov 2008]
Gratitude to our advisors
Someone asked today "Did you invent it ?".
No, Christopher Cockerell invented it, we just designed this one. His inventing enabled us.
We are also grateful for all the various advice we have received from hovercraft experts and others that have helped us on our way.
In particular, recently, thanks are due to Malcolm Whapshott for information to improve the efficiency of our propeller, and to Rob McConnell for suggestions that may help us in solving the pitch-trim problems.
We are always open to listening.
But in case you are thinking of suggesting
"Why don't you take a long walk on a short pier ?"
Well, we have done that already , lots of times.
Posted on [27th Oct 2008]
We continue with a series of tests.
Today we were experimenting with whether the skirt-fingers would still work without each having an individual air-feed from the higher-pressure bag.
So, we blocked up five adjacent vents - the relevant fingers still worked.
Then we made a game of it. Simon got on board and I tried to push one of the fingers out of shape while he was hovering. It sprang straight back. Then we swopped places. The hoverer always won.
Posted on [12th Oct 2008]
We still carry on
Yes we still carry on even though on Sunday 7th Sep we had our worst damge incident yet. We had had a good day, then when packing away, it was lifted when it was partially derigged. Crack ! The steering horn was broken.
During the week, we repaired it and on Sunday 14th, we were back hovering again.
There was an opportunity to give Sue from Scotland her first hover, and Karina, Simon, Chris and Pouha all had a hover.
Posted on [15th Sep 2008]
Carry on at the Reservoir
Today we launched it as a boat. Not slipping down off a beach or ramp like any other hovercraft: this time we put it into the water empty off a yacht-jetty, let it float, then Simon stepped in. Actually this is how we had envisaged trip initiation at the design-stage. But we have never done it like this before. How did it go ?
Putting it in was easy. Stepping in was easy. Stepping out was easy. But getting SBW up onto the jetty was a frightful task. This is because the bag had a lot of weight of water in it. It took four of us, Karina, Sidique, Simon and Chris, and we were lucky not to damage it on the jetty-edge.
We did another test. We taped temporary extensions to the trailing edge of the fan. Would a wider fan blade make hovering easier ? First impression was that the extensions made it slightly harder, but not much. Another series of tests was made with three different people. We all agreed that the extensions made hovering harder.
Also, we are working on improving the water-drainage from the bag. This isn't for when you're trying to lift it up onto a jetty, this is for when you've been floating and want to start hovering. The water does drain out - eventually. We will add more holes to make it faster.
We still have a succession of minor breakages. But nothing that masking tape can't be a temporary repair to. Today the propeller tips hit the water surface and this scarred them locally - but the propeller still propels and the hovercraft still hovers.
We just want it to propel faster and further with less effort, and that is what we are continuing to work towards.
Join us at the reservoir if you are interested.
Posted on [31st Aug 2008]
At the IHPVA World Champs, Bentwaters 2008
We had a fantastic time, the weather was half-decent some of the time, wish you had been there.
Claudia Goodman became our first lady passenger. (See photo in our gallery).
We went onto the tidal creek at Orford. The UFOs which are said to abound in this area tolerated us. Perhaps they thought we were one of them !
Simon made some good straight runs on the tarmac, and hectic-looking swivel turns which impressed the crowds.
Several event-goers helped with the handling and we had invaluable assistance particularly from Fred Ball of the AYRS, Ian Fardoe of the BHPC and Nigel and Carole Cliffe.
Most people turned up at the event with streamline bicycles, some with two wheels, some with three. Ours, of course, has no wheels, but the most amazing thing there had one wheel. Well, effectively, WAS one wheel. You ride inside it - incredible.
Nigel, the WHEEL crew, and others also hovered SBW themselves.
Posted on [18th Aug 2008]
Story on this Website
Just added at the bottom of the Technical section is a narrative of the project which covers all aspects including the technical. ( Scroll on down below Weight Analysis ).
We are continuing to operate on Sundays at the reservoir and are firming up plans for the trip to the World Champs on August 16th and 17th. Let us know if you want to join us at either of these places.
Last Sunday, Karina Townsend became airborne in SBW, and Paul Standeven, Jonathan Roper, Simon Ward and Chris Roper continued with adjustments to the skirt. This involves someone onboard pedalling while the rest of us observe the effect of the last adjustment etc. We will continue with this to make it easier to keep up and more stable.
Posted on [18th Jul 2008]
Forward progress over land seems a lot easier with the new fingers.
We did a few more tests in the street, but after a while we thought that we were ready to test it, with the new fingers, on water.
So, today, Sunday 29th June, Paul and Damien and Geoffrey and Simon and Chris loaded the craft onto the van and we set off for Stoke Newington reservoir.
We are getting quicker at rigging and derigging and we had it all set up, but the wind was gusting in a rather threatening way, and we opted to stay on the bank.
However, Paul was able to make his first static hover. It always good to see someone new becoming airborne just by pedalling.
Let us know if you want to be involved.
Have you seen the latest additions to the Gallery on this site and to the Technical section where we show the weight of the craft and of its various components. By comparison our close namesake Steamboat Willie is 80 feet long with a 16-foot beam and weighs approximately 70000 pounds.
Posted on [29th Jun 2008]
Airborne again !
O.K., so its only been three months since we were last hovering. And the new orange fingers that we have added are the same shape as the old plastic ones that they replaced.
So, this afternoon when the new fingers worked just fine, then I suppose it would have been reasonable to say, "Well , so they should, what's the big deal".
But it was a thrill. I, Chris, was first up and I couldn't wait to get out of the craft so that I could see them working from outside.
Margaret Barnes, Simon Ward and myself had nearly finished fitting the skirt back on when we were joined by Etienne Gilfillan.
Etienne helped us put the last few sealing tapes on and then made a movie,
see "Orange Fingers Test " in "Gallery".
Plans now are to finish testing out the various modifications that we have made. This will be done on land and on a North London reservoir. Then in August we will be at the IHPVA World Championships ( see events).
Posted on [14th Jun 2008]
We can now begin to see the end of the series of repairs and modifications.
A whole new set of fingers have been made and sewn on, same shape as before but made of a tougher material.
We discovered several damaged areas in the panelling of the perimeter frame. This panelling has a weight of 0.006 pounds per square inch, about 1 ounce per square foot or 4 grams per square decimeter or the weight of five sheets of paper. So, considering it gets bashed by waves while helping support a person's weight, it has stood up pretty well. There was one set of three dents which we reckon are the "fingerprints" of three pebbles caused by a rough beach landing. These have now been patched.
Also several other small modifications are underway, including splash-guards to protect the chain and sprockets from spray and waves. ( We had some trouble from corrosion last summer.)
Hopefully we will be re-fitting the bag in a week or two. Then we will be hovering again.
Posted on [25th May 2008]
We are in the process of giving the hovercraft a jolly good spring clean.
The transmission has been completely stripped down. The chains have been soaked in oil. We are cleaning bearings and any moving part. We have tipped quite a lot of sand out of corners where it has lodged.
Also the fingers , the lower decimeter (4 inches) of the skirt, is being completely renewed with a tougher material than before.
We are taking the opportunity of weighing all the components and the ensuing data will soon be up on the technical section of this site.
We are looking forward to having it all back together again and hovering.
Posted on [27th Apr 2008]
One World , One Dream, Free Tibet
To bag the Olympics Beijing promised there would be press freedom 'all over China'. The gullible International Olympic Committee believed them but, for many, the outcome was never in doubt. The Olympic press freedoms will never apply in Tibet - unless we continue to take action now.
An atmosphere of repression and censorship continues to surround the media and free-flow of information in China. Local Chinese journalists remain under constant threat. Even the global cyber players caved in. Try googling in China for Taiwan, Tiananmen or Tibet.
The opportunity that the Olympics brings to foreign journalists to interview individuals freely all over China has been denied in Tibet. Again the Tibetans have been betrayed with another promise broken in the full sight of the international community. Why does Beijing want to hide Tibet from the world?
You can help by putting something like this on YOUR site. Beijing can't censor us all. Some of the truth will get through.
Posted on [11th Apr 2008]
Climbing Out of the Sea.
We had been waiting for a day which had calm winds. The other requirement
was that enough of us would be free from our other engagements to be able to
operate SBW. Wednesday the 20th of Feb was such a day.
After adding some bottom flaps to the aft fingers, Malcolm, Chris and Simon
took SBW across the road onto the beach. The tide was out and a glorious
stretch of smooth sand was available to hover over on this fine windless
day, with the sea as smooth as glass.
We carried SBW over the pebbles onto the sand with high hopes that now it
would really show what it could do. At last we would really pedal down the
beach, (rather than a slipway), and onto the surface of the water.
(Slipways we can do, see video)
Even though it was February, a cold month in this country, there were a couple of dozen beach-strollers who stopped to watch as we set the pedal powered
hovercraft down pointing boldly out towards the ocean.
How far would we get ?
We didn't even get up off the sand.
Not properly. That craft with those fingers just couldn't cope with wet
sand. Simon as pilot was only just hovering and Malcolm and Chris gave the craft
some assistance tugging it forward. Reluctantly it proceeded onto the water.
When Simon returned back onto the beach, fairly soon, we could see that
most of the fingers had been ripped to shreds.
There are some surfaces that SBW likes, some it can cope with and the
others. Wet sand, we discovered, was one of the others.
However we took the opportunity to test out what would happen if you
stopped pedalling when at sea. This could happen if you ran out of puff, or
if part of the mechanism were to malfunction.
So with the propeller removed, Simon climbed aboard and hovered, and Chris
pushed SBW out onto the water, until with SBW hovering above, Chris was up
to his knees. The Simon stopped pedalling. Water was seen to seep up near
the keel. But the perimeter float kept the craft bouyant as intended. Simon
started pedalling again. To our amazement and delight it went up to hovering
as quickly and easily as at anytime. We didn't believe it. "It can't really
have got any water in the bag", we thought. So we did it again. This time
Malcolm timed us, and it was floating for over a minute. Again, it readily
climbed up out of the water just as before. Chris could see through the fan
inlet that there was still a little water in the bag, but this was soon
expelled through the vents.
We continue to be surprised by what SBW can do and what it can't do.
The day's findings :-
We can climb out of the sea, but we can't climb off wet sand.
Tests and development continue.
Posted on [22nd Feb 2008]
Second Passenger, & Tarpaulin tested.
Michael Milburn, seen watching in earlier pictures, had his chance to climb aboard
on Sunday 3rd Feb 2008. Chris found that Michael is appreciably heavier than
Ethan and was just about at his physical limit on a third take-off. We were
helping to make a TV documentary and the producer said "Just one more time".
Chris needed to take a few deep breaths before he could oblige. Michael
stayed steady, and performed well, climbing in and out carefully with help
from his father Ian Milburn. Ethan has to stretch to reach the pilot's shoulders.
The two lads represent the limits of size for a passenger, (on a craft that
was designed for only one).
Even without a passenger, hovering SBW over grass is also hard work. This
is compared with water or a smooth surface. We had been thinking that maybe
pegging a tarpaulin down like a big groundsheet might produce a surface over
which we could hover. We tested this, in quite a strong wind, and found that
the system works. We will now be acquiring a bigger, or several, tarpaulins
ready to give displays at festivals.
Posted on [6th Feb 2008]
Automatic Pitch Control development crisis.
Controlling the pitch of the propeller adds to the work-load of the pilot
and we have been considering adding an automatic pitch control system. On
the SBW, the fan revs must not drop below a required minimum to keep the
craft hovering. Any power you produce in excess of this can be used to drive
the propeller. Ideally, you will keep pedalling at the same speed, harder,
but not faster, and definitely not slower. At the moment, this is arranged
by you operating the pitch control with your left-hand. But, if this is made
automatic, then you will be able to just pedal, and if you pedal harder then
pitch will be increased, (by the system), and you will go forward. We
assumed that if the pitch is too high such that effort required from pilot
becomes too high then the revs become low, and the pressure in the bag will
drop, ( and vice-versa). So, we started to design a device that would
measure the pressure in the bag and, through a linkage, pull on the pitch
control cable until the pressure was nominal. We even started to make a
mock-up, (full-size-model), of the linkage mechanism. There would be a
"trim" control that the pilot could use to effectively decide what the
current "nominal" is.
Then Geoffrey, Simon and Chris did some tests on how much the bag-pressure
varies with pedalling rate. The results indicated that the device would
probably not work, at least not as currently envisaged.
Is there anyone out there who can advise us ?
Do you know of an effective, practical way of arranging a
Have you any ideas for a totally different way of doing it ?
Or, maybe, just a simple tweak which would make our current design work ?
Forget those big Sudokus, this is a real problem. One we don't know the
Posted on [6th Feb 2008]
Kenny Bradley of California has sent us a solution to the 36 by 36 Sudoku.
He thereby becomes the winner.
If anyone else had nearly solved it, send us your solution by 17th Jan, and
we will acknowledge you as a runner-up. Then we will publish the solution.
Posted on [3rd Jan 2008]
What else do we do ?
Seeing this site, you may get the impression that we are all complete human
powered hovercraft maniacs with no other interests.
This is far from the truth.
Martin Pfeiffer is currently involved with development work on a vehicle
aimed at cutting pollution and enabling more efficient urban transport.
Simon Ward is the proud owner of a pogofoil. Describable as a hydrofoil
vehicle powered by the vertical oscillation of its occupant or alternatively
as the craziest way of getting across the water yet.
Chris Roper is being consulted on the construction of a novel human powered
aircraft. The aim of the project being to bring this activity within the
reach of those other than athletes and millionaires.
And Ethan George has just returned from Tenerife where he has been with a
bunch of guys kayaking alongside and riding on dolphins.
But, despite these distractions, our relatively routine and mundane
activity of hovering by human leg power alone continues.
On 10th November 2007, we made what we reckon is our final tests with the
new skirt extensions. These included replacing some of the existing fingers
with fingers of a different design. Then we hovered and saw the effect.
Working in a museum, we are on view to the public. On one occasion, a group
of visitors were particularly keen to see our craft hover. We were at the
stage where we had taken off the old finger but not replaced it with the new
one, but we didn't want to disapoint them so we had a go anyway. Simon
managed to get it airborne with one finger missing.
The new design fingers seem to be performing well. So, now we will take the
complete skirt off, and replace them all.
Posted on [12th Nov 2007]
Report in THE INDEPENDENT Saturday 8th Sept 2007
Page 15 of this UK national shows a striking colour picture by Roger Bamber.
The new finger extensions to the skirt really working properly for the first time,
after our recent adjusments. You can see daylight right through underneath.
Posted on [10th Sep 2007]
Chris Roper reports :
We went. We hovered.
During this two-day show, we hovered indoors, we hovered outdoors, we hovered on the sea and we hovered on a paddling pool. We had our allotted pitch in one of the hangars and for most of the time we were giving demonstrations to the show-goers. Every time there was a new lot of people we showed that hovering, by pedal-power alone, is possible. Getting "up on cushion" on SBW is as much a knack as an effort. I would climb in, and say
"Look one pedal stroke to fill the bag with air, then one, two, three four pedal-strokes to be up hovering", talking and pedalling at the same time. Trying to show off how effortless it is. Its about the same effort as climbing a flight of stairs. After I had been doing it all day, I began to feel it in my legs.
Ethan George, ( See Wednesday's News ) was able to delight the onlookers on four occasions during the show by again climbing aboard and becoming my passenger. This is a tricky operation since SBW is strictly a single-seater. I have to balance the craft and he has to balance himself. It had all been planned very thoroughly with the help of his father, Terry George, one of the show organisers.
On the second day, the conditions of wind and tide seemed fair enough for us to try a sea-trip. This was the first time on water at all with the new fingers, and we did it with crowds watching. We have given ourselves a Mickey Mouse name and we are always ready to be laughed at if anything goes wrong. From the sea-front it looked as if everything went right. Simon launched off the beach, went out onto the Solent, did a turn and hovered back up onto the beach - like hovercraft do. But everything hadn't gone right. They didn`t see that we lost a propeller tip and that many of the fingers got ripped as we beached onto the sharp shingle. So, back to the hangar, and we took the propeller off ready to be shipped to the workshop to be repaired, and Simon quickly did some makeshift patching to the fingers so that we could do some more indoor hovers.
One of the other features of the Show was a shallow pool for model hovercraft organised by Larry Hodgson. Yes, we hovered on that too.
The visitors to the Show all seemed amazed that one could hover just by pedalling. Not least a one-time pilot of the cross-channel SRN4 craft. We would have liked to give him the opportunity to pedal SBW. As it was, we did everything we had planned, and more. An eventful couple of days.
Watch this site for where you can see us next.
Maybe next years HoverShow, Lee-on-the-Solent.
Posted on [10th Sep 2007]
Passenger aboard Steam Boat Willy
From the Daedalus slipway, Ethan George, aged 6, became the first passenger of a human powered hovercraft today. Chris Roper, aged 70, was pilot,(and engine). There is only one seat on SBW, and young Ethan had to perch on the central frame, keep very still and hang onto Chris's shoulders. A couple of days ago when the idea was first mooted and Ethan was being told that he would need to practice balancing on a narrow plank at home, he pointed to the hovercraft and said "I want to practice on that".
This afternnon, at 3pm, Ethan's father, Terry George, helped young Ethan aboard.
Chris pedalled slightly harder than usual and fast enough to lift the two of them. The craft withstood the extra weight and the fan managed to produce enough lift air, and up and away she hovered.
The flight was witnessed by Warwick Jacobs of the Hovercraft Museum Trust.
Chris said later "I nearly decided to cancel the 'service' because of high winds, then I thought 'Let's go for it !'"
Later Warwick himself hovered. ( No, Chris didn't carry Warwick, he had to do his own pedalling ! ).
Watch this site for pictures, soon, of the passenger flight.
Posted on [5th Sep 2007]
More adjusting and testing at Lee on Solent. After some work on the skirt
extension fingers, on Monday, we were honoured to be able give Malcolm
Whapshott, authority on human powered flight, the opportunity to become
airborne under his own leg power in the hovercraft. Malcolm has a different
physique from Alexi for whom the craft was designed, and so the fore and aft
balance was all wrong on his first attempt. The bow lifted but not the stern.
Chris said to Malcolm "You're not the first person to not do it on
your first attempt, but you're not going to be the first to not manage it at
all. Lean forward, and pedal just a little harder." Malcolm did just that
and the craft lifted into a steady hover. One more human hovercraft engine.
Malcolm weighs 86 Kg, is fifty and hasn't cycled for quite a while.
Adjustments and practice continue, preparing for the Show on Sept 8 and 9.
Posted on [28th Aug 2007]
Testing of our hovercraft with the new extended skirt is continuing.
I feel that, for the first time, I can dare to call it an "improved skirt".
The lurking fear was that we might have made it worse.
There was some damage to the fingers after our test on Tuesday when we hovered over a gravel surface in a gusty wind. These are being repaired. On Saturday 25th Aug we hope to have it outside again, but we will keep off the gravel.
The Hovercraft Show is on Sept 8th and 9th and we want it to be in peak condition to put on a good demonstration.
Posted on [23rd Aug 2007]
Fingers move forward
We adjusted the vents, and did one or two other adjustments, then tested it
inside the hangar. It seemed to ride better, and it was easier to pedal.
Josh pedalled off the ground with it, the first time for him.
We think we have the vents right now.
So we put the propeller on and took it outside. There was a lot of wind blowing off the sea, but we went ahead anyway.
We found it a much livelier beast than before. It moves forward and can be manoeuvered even in those gusty conditions. Steering and even some reverse motion all Ok.
Posted on [22nd Aug 2007]
On 5th August 2007, we first tested the craft with fingers. We were delighted that it lifted and the fingers filled out well to the expected shape. Pilots found it different and we are still getting used to it. Don't know quite why yet. Same old story. Is it me or is it it ?
We will try adjusting the vents to the fingers, and see what difference that makes to how it hovers.
Watch video of the fingers test here...
Posted on [5th Aug 2007]