The Definitive Story of the

Hovercraft

 

Nominated by

The Maritime Foundation for The 2012 Mountbatten Award for Maritime Literature, On a Cushion of Air achieved the accolade of being shortlisted to the last 12 out of 33 nominations.

 


This is the story of how private foreign enterprise in the form of Swedish Lloyd and Swedish America Line, who formed a British company called Hoverlloyd, galvanised the British Government in to supporting this new concept in transport through the formation of a British Rail subsidiary called Seaspeed. It is a story, told by those who were there, of how young adventurous men and women, most of whom were in their twenties and early thirties, took on the exciting challenge of getting an operation, in which they all believed had a great future, off the ground. It tells of the difficulties and near disasters, through lack of experience, that nearly wrote off the industry in the early days; the clashes of cultures between the free enterprise and Government operations; and why, after so much early promise, the great adventure with the giant car and passenger carrying hovercraft came to an end.

The story begins with the history of Saunders Roe and their involvement as a result of the discovery by Christopher Cockerell in 1953 that big weights could be supported on a cushion of low pressure air and that the concept could be practically applied. Much has already been written about Christopher Cockerell, later Sir Christopher, and the development of the hovercraft by Saunders Roe, as well as the hovercraft industry to the present day. Those relevant parts showing the frustrations and disappointments they too suffered are repeated in this book, together with new material that has come to light, to provide a comprehensive narrative of the hovercraft industry and the giant SR.N4 cross-Channel operations.