06 September, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: Hovercraft built in Terre Haute at work in Texas

Terre Haute Tribune-Star
September 2, 2017
By Howard Greninger

Fire chief: Hovercraft are ‘perfect tool for this kind of situation’

An amphibious craft built in Terre Haute is helping to rescue flood victims of Hurricane Harvey in parts of Texas.
Mansfield Fire-Rescue, located near Dallas, was deployed Wednesday to Port Arthur, just south of Beaumont, Texas, to use a Neoteric Hovercraft.

“We have made over 40 rescues with the hovercraft in the Mansfield incorporated area since we got the hovercraft about four years ago and, since Wednesday, have made 15 to 20 rescues in the Port Arthur area,” said Mansfield Battalion Chief Jeff Smith.

It’s the first statewide deployment for Mansfield Fire-Rescue, located about 316 miles from Port Arthur, Smith said.

Chris Fitzgerald, president of Neoteric Hovercraft Inc., stands next to a hovercraft
his company is making for the Indonesian Police Force. Photo: Tribune-Star/Austen Leake
The department initially deployed four firefighters on Aug. 24 to serve in ambulance crews to evacuate hospitals and nursing homes in Corpus Christi, about 395 miles away, and in Victoria, about 278 miles from Mansfield, Smith said.
When flooding hammered Port Arthur, three swift water rescue technicians from the department took the call for aid to Port Arthur.
“I talked to the guys there and they said most of the rescue crews have flat bottom boats with propellers. But when you get into 2 feet of water, most people being rescued had to walk 100 to 200 yards to dry land,” Smith said.
“In the hovercraft, we can go right up to their door, get them out and take them up onto dry land,” he said.
“It is the perfect tool for urban flooding, as you can go from grass to mud to water to dry streets without any problem,” Smith said. “Most of the flooding we deal with is street flooding from creeks and rivers. A hovercraft doesn’t make a wake, so it is the perfect tool for this kind of situation. It makes a rescue faster and easier.”

A hovercraft is an amphibious vehicle that is supported by a cushion of slightly pressurized air and is capable of traveling over land, water, mud, ice and other surfaces. Hovercraft float on a cushion of air that has been forced under the craft by a fan. This causes the craft to rise or lift. The amount of lift can range from 6 inches to 108 inches, according to Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc.
Smith said Mansfield Fire-Rescue bought the hovercraft in Terre Haute about four years ago and underwent training at the Terre Haute firm. The driver, or pilot, then undergoes another 10 hours of “flight time” to be certified to operate the hovercraft by the department, Smith said.
Another agency — Somervell County Volunteer Fire Department, in Glen Rose Texas — saw the hovercraft in action and decided to buy one, Smith said. Mansfield and Somervell County each manned hovercrafts for rescues from Hurricane Harvey, Smith said.
“Those fire departments have been using our craft for quite a long time,” said Chris Fitzgerald, president of Neoteric Hovercraft Inc., a company that moved its manufacturing and offices to Terre Haute in 1976.
“The real tragedy is there should be thousands of hovercraft for these rescues. They can do so much more than other vehicles and fill the gap in the amphibious transport, as hovercraft can operate in fast-flowing water, in water full of debris or in shallow water, places where boats have a problem,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said he knew the Texas fire departments were gearing up as the departments last week began asking for technical support or spare parts for hovercraft.
“All of those are our craft. It is difficult to get excited as we have been in these situations for many years. Even when Katrina hit, we had craft operating and in a mud slide in Oregon a few years ago,” he said. “We are sorry to see these tragedies, but with global warming, we will see a lot more, unfortunately.”
In addition to rescues, a hovercraft can also be used to collect information, Fitzgerald said, which can be used by emergency command officials.
Hovercraft can be used to assess impacted areas, discover what is needed, such as medications, and how many people are affected. The hovercraft can then be used to bring medicines and supplies to areas or transport those in need of evacuation or medical attention, Fitzgerald said.

16 May, 2017

Seguridad de Guanajuato in Mexico relies on Neoteric Hovercraft

Seguridad de Guanajuato, the state public security forces, is a branch of government in Mexico that is similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It's headquarters are in the city of Guanajuato, capitol of the state of Guanajuato. The city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known as one of Mexico's most beautiful cities ...

Near the city, Securidad de Guanajuato has a base at the edge of Lago de Yuriria. Lake Yuriria is one of the two principal lakes in the state and is a popular attraction for both tourists and locals. Unfortunately, it's also the site of frequent accidents as well as drug enforcement problems. Compounding these issues is the fact that the lake often becomes completely covered with water lilies, over which regular boats can't travel. This not only increases the likelihood of accidents but also makes rescue operations more difficult and dangerous ...

But Neoteric Hovercraft came to the rescue. Officials from Seguridad de Guanajuato discovered Neoteric Hovercraft at last year’s FDIC (Fire Department Instructors’ Conference) in Indianapolis and quickly recognized that hovercraft would solve their problems. Early this year, the department purchased two 6-passenger Neoteric rescue hovercraft with cabins, along with two custom trailers ... 
One of the two Securidad de Guanajuato hovercraft awaits performance testing on the Wabash River in Terre Haute, Indiana
prior to shipment to Mexico.
The sales agreement was signed January 21, the day after President Trump took office. Delivery of the two hovercraft was delayed due to a number of problems, including the rising friction between the U.S. and Mexico, increasingly complicated customs procedures, and that fact that the Mexican peso plunged to an all-time low, which initiated a price re-negotiation.

But we at Neoteric value our 40+ year reputation for excellent customer service and will let no obstacles prevent us from fulfilling an order and ensuring customer satisfaction. Nothing is more important than hearing clients tell us - as did Wylie Fire-Rescue in Texas, for example  – “It's really a pleasure to work with a company that proves over and over to its customers that they truly care.

So, despite all the obstacles, the two hovercraft were successfully shipped to Mexico. Then, Neoteric President Chris Fitzgerald and Vice President Steve Stafford spent last week in Guanajuato conducting on-site hovercraft flight training and maintenance instruction for twenty officers and cadets from Seguridad de Guanajuato.

Fitzgerald and Stafford were assisted all week by two excellent technical translators, Jessica Pachaco (4th from left) and Eva Machado (3rd from right). Jessica is fluent in 7 different languages, and both were of tremendous help ...

The first two days at Securidad de Guanajuato headquarters consisted of ground instruction and comprehensive maintenance training, including detailed explanations of the hovercraft's various systems and how to correct problems should they arise. 

Thorough maintenance training was essential, given the environment at Lake Yuriria, with temperatures in the 90s. The 70-mile-long lake is at an elevation of 5,175 feet; engine and fan performance can be reduced by 4% per every 1000 feet of elevation, which could affect lift and thrust. ...

Here, the trainees learn how to replace the hovercraft cabins with standard windshields ...

At the conclusion of ground instruction and maintenance training, the entire crew traveled to Lake Yuriria with one of their hovercraft for hands-on flight training. The constantly moving clusters of water lilies were no obstacle for the hovercraft ...

Despite other obstacles - such as horses, herds of goats, and student paddlers - the flight training proceeded smoothly and successfully ...

At the end of the week, the state police officers and cadets from Seguridad de Guanajuato receive their hovercraft pilot training certifications ...

Seguridad de Guanajuato's two Neoteric hovercraft will be used to patrol Lake Yuriria, even when the lake is covered with water lily growth that prevents access by any other watercraft. Now the agency will be able to check fishing permits, control the flow of illegal drugs, and to perform water rescues more easily and more safely than ever before.

Learn more about flight & maintenance training at

15 May, 2017

Man, pregnant wife rescued from Brazos River by Neoteric Hovercraft

Nueces County Record Star
May 15, 2017
By Mark Wilson

A husband and his pregnant wife who became lost and exhausted while on a tubing excursion late Sunday afternoon on the Brazos River were rescued by members of the Somervell County Fire Department — with a little help from technology — according to Fire Chief Mark Crawford. 
Chief Crawford says their Neoteric hovercraft “is very useful for our river rescues when the water moves from too shallow to deep. It hovers 9 inches above the surface so swift water and hidden obstacles don’t affect it. The advantage of the hovercraft is that it can hover in fast, rough water and operate on land, shallow and deep water. We have around 50 miles of river in our county.”

Dispatch should be credited for pinging the cell phone and sending us right to them,” Crawford said after the incident, which occurred on the river north of the iron bridge that is on U.S. Highway 67.
Crawford said the couple became exhausted “from fighting the river current.”
The SCFD’s hovercraft was sent, and was able to pick up the two, who were visiting Somervell County.
They were found approximately two miles off course and were delivered to the waiting ambulance for evaluation,” Crawford noted.
The man told first responders that his wife had become “panicky,” but neither needed to be transported for medical treatment, according to Crawford.
The SCFD also had used its hovercraft to search for a man and his son who were reportedly stranded on the river in a canoe or kayak, but they were able to reach shore on their own.
The rescue was just one part of a busy and successful Sunday for local first responders.

28 April, 2017

LAST CHANCE! Don’t miss Neoteric Hovercraft #FDIC Booth 2704 Saturday

#FDIC2017 ends tomorrow - it’s your last chance to visit Booth 2704 and see why the Neoteric Rescue Hovercraft performs the absolute safest and fastest rescue operations – especially in areas other vehicles can’t access, including thin and broken ice, mud flats, intertidal areas, shallow rivers, swift water, and debris-filled flooded inland areas.

And be sure to enter our giveaway for your chance to learn to fly a rescue hovercraft - FREE! There’s no better way for you to experience for yourself why your fellow first responders in 50+ nations rely on the Neoteric Rescue Hovercraft to keep them, and their victims, safely above the danger, rather than in it.

Come meet Neoteric President/Founder Chris Fitzgerald and Vice President/Flight Instructor Steve Stafford. Neoteric is the world’s original light hovercraft manufacturer, in business for more than four decades. You’ll never meet anyone who knows more about rescue hovercraft than Chris and Steve, and they’re eagerly waiting to answer all your questions …

But don’t just take our word for it. Let your fellow first responders tell you why Neoteric Rescue Hovercraft Booth 2704 should be your top priority tomorrow at the closing day of the #FDIC …

North Muskegon Fire Department, Michigan: 
"Both the North Muskegon and Muskegon Fire Departments use hovercraft for their ice rescue operations. The hovercraft have saved more lives than our all our fire engines combined. Since 1985, 255 people have been rescued or removed from Muskegon area lakes using hovercraft. 50% would have drowned not having the hovercraft as a safe rescue tool." Read more ...

WOPR, a national water rescue organization in Poland:
“Regardless of the weather, our hovercraft can fly over water, ice, mud, sand, grass or wetlands – allowing us to get to those places you can’t reach either by boat or by foot. This machine can save people under the most difficult conditions that prevent the use of a helicopter.”

Mansfield Fire Department, Texas:
“The benefit of having the hovercraft is we do not have to send our personnel into the water to retrieve victims. It can also hover over logs, car tires and any other debris, unlike boats that could be a hazard in flood water. A hovercraft is the answer to a faster rescue – a safer rescue.” Read more ...

Central Fraser Valley Search & Rescue Society, Canada:
"The hovercraft gets us into areas that, before, we weren't able to reach, areas that our jet boat can't get into because we ingest debris into the impeller. And the hovercraft saves us a lot of time."

Council Bluffs Fire Department, Iowa:
"Our hovercraft can handle some of the most dangerous rescues that would otherwise be out of reach. It's the only vehicle able to operate on any surface; you can get it anywhere that basically nothing else can get to. With it, we're not sending first responders out into bad water or ice. We can go over it all with the hovercraft, grab the victim and bring them back." Read more ...

Davis County, Utah Sheriff's Office:
"Our hovercraft, without question, has saved lives. Much of our county is covered by the Great Salt Lake, and when the water is low it leaves miles of mudflats boats can't reach. We can't get airboats out there. When it's extremely windy it's hard to get an aircraft or helicopter out there, and even walking out is impossible. We were putting rescuers in harm's way, but the hovercraft allows us to hover over mud, ice or water and get right to the patient - to literally reach out our hand and pull them out. It's built like a plane: light, fast, maneuverable. It fills that "what if" need. And it's an awesome asset to have."