They were once known as the ‘Concorde of the Seas’: mighty flying boats that ferried their passengers with speed and style. Hovercraft was a symbol of national innovation and represented the future of transport in the 20th Century.
image/text credit: Curious Droid
And yet, like the Concorde, the huge iconic ‘Mountbatten-class’ hovercraft that once traversed the 22-mile English Channel from England to France carrying hundreds or passengers and cars are no longer with us.So what happened to the giant hovercraft SN-R4?
The SR.N4 was the largest hovercraft built to that date, designed to carry 254 passengers in two cabins besides a four-lane automobile bay which held up to 30 cars. Cars were driven from a bow ramp just forward of the cockpit / wheelhouse. The first design was 40 metres (131 ft) long, weighed 190 long tons (193 t), was capable of 83 knots and could cruise at over 60 knots.
The SR.N4 craft were powered by four Bristol Proteus gas turbine engines which consumed significant amounts of aviation kerosene. As the world wide oil crisis of the 1970s caused fuel prices to rise sharply, the operation of the SR.N4 became increasingly uneconomic. Furthermore, the closure of the British Hovercraft Corporation meant that maintenance of the craft was also costly and no new design or build was likely.