12 February, 2020

Texas attorney buys hovercraft to help with flood rescues

Retirement planning has taken an interesting turn for Myall Hawkins, an intellectual property attorney in Houston, Texas. Two major factors played an important role in that turn:
 1) The dramatically rising risk of flooding and 2) The effectiveness of Neoteric Hovercraft in flood rescue operations.

Myall says, “I’m 64 and gearing up for what I want to do when I retire. So I thought, how can I help others? In recent years we’ve had major catastrophic floods in Texas, and predictions say we’re facing even more flooding and it will be more severe. So my thoughts turned to how I might provide assistance.

He’s absolutely correct. The National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Association reports that 2019 was a record-breaking year of flooding and they expect that every year for decades to come will break the record over and over again.

What led Myall Hawkins to hovercraft?

Myall explains, “I live in a gulf county and from any storm coming in from the gulf coast, we’re going to be impacted first. Our first responders get overloaded. In 2017 with Hurricane Harvey, the Cajun Navy came in. Our Louisiana neighbors came in with flat bottom boats, airboats, cruisers, whatever they could.

I became interested in how I could help. I bought an inflatable boat that’s good for some flooding events. But when I talked to first responders, they had plenty to say about the problems with boats in flood rescues, the main one being that outboard motors and propellers are easily damaged or lost. During Harvey, boats capsized and rescuers had to be rescued. 

And most flooding is residential, so you often have one neighborhood under several feet of water, the next neighborhood may have hardly any, and in between the two are dry streets. So if you had a boat, you could only go so far.

So I started researching flood rescue equipment that can handle swift water, shallow and deep flood water, and transition between grass, mud, sand, water and other surfaces – and came across hovercraft. I didn’t know anything about them, so I started searching online. There were different hovercraft companies out there, but I quickly learned that most first responders use Neoteric rescue hovercraft.”

Why a Neoteric hovercraft?

His next question was why most fire departments and rescue agencies choose Neoteric hovercraft. He says, “I discovered it’s because it’s the lightest weight. It’s got the highest horsepower. And it’s got reverse thrust, giving it maneuverability that’s just phenomenal. You can brake, turn, fly backwards, hover in place and fly easily right up to victims. No other hovercraft can do all that.

After his thorough research, Myall purchased a pre-owned 6-passenger Neoteric rescue hovercraft. His first step after that was to undergo flight and maintenance training at Neoteric. “I would never operate a hovercraft without proper training,” he says. “That would be really foolish.”

Here, Myall learns to fuel his hovercraft as he begins his flight training with Neoteric President Chris Fitzgerald at the Wabash River in Terre Haute, Indiana …

Myall’s training was his first experience in a hovercraft. His reaction? “Flying a Neoteric is phenomenal! You definitely don’t experience its capabilities until you get out on the hovercraft. You can read about it, you can see a video and that’s nice, but then you fly it yourself and oh, yeah, I can just imagine what we can do with this. It definitely is a performance machine.”

One aspect Myall noted was the hovercraft’s easy transition between different surfaces. “We went down the boat ramp and onto the water at a decent speed and you don’t feel the transition at all – it’s completely smooth – even going sideways. I was really surprised.” …

Back at Neoteric headquarters after successfully completing his flight training, Myall (left) receives his certification from President Chris Fitzgerald ...

What comes next?

After Hurricane Harvey, Myall reports that many civilians in Texas have come together to assist in flood rescue efforts, and he plans to join them. Numerous websites have been set up where these volunteers can list their equipment, their training, their location, and what they can do, then first responders call on them for help.

In the meantime, Myall explains, “My hovercraft was built in 2011. My next step is to have Neoteric upgrade it with current rescue features. I’ve told Chris I don’t want it quickly, I want it right, so whatever it needs, let’s do it. Then I’ll have it shipped to me in Texas.”

Now that I’ve finished my initial standard training,” he says, “when the hovercraft is shipped to me, I’ll get more hours of experience in it, then come back for second level rescue training. So that’s my goal: get hours on the craft, get very comfortable with its operation, undergo rescue training and hopefully help save lives in future flooding.”

And a side benefit is that when Myall's hovercraft is not in use as a flood rescue vehicle, he can always enjoy it as a recreational hovercraft for river cruising, fishing and much more!

The importance of hovercraft in the future

There are few places on Earth where flooding is not a growing concern. Flooding is the #1 natural disaster in the United States, and of all U.S. weather-related disasters, floods are the main cause of death. The National Weather Service reports that 2019 was the wettest year in recorded history - 124 years -  and the frequency and intensity of floods will continue to increase.

Hovercraft are a critical rescue apparatus for flood rescue operations. As Myall Hawkins – along with first responders in more than 50 nations - have recognized, the Neoteric rescue hovercraft, with its exclusive patented reverse thrust, greatly tops the maneuverability of other hovercraft on the market. It performs safely in debris-filled, shallow, fast-flowing flood water and allows rapid up-close access to victims while keeping first responders above the danger – not in it.

The Mansfield Fire Department in Texas, who operates a Neoteric rescue hovercraft, sums it up quite accurately:  “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.”


Experience first-hand what a Neoteric hovercraft can do for you:

22 July, 2019

SNEAK PEAK: Neoteric episode of “Aaron Needs a Job” with Aaron Kaufman

As we posted earlier, Neoteric Hovercraft will be featured in an upcoming episode of Discovery Channel’s Aaron Needs a Job, starring the famous TV personality Aaron Kaufman from Fast ‘N’ Loud. In his all-new docuseries, Aaron explores mechanical worlds he’s never before seen or experienced as he takes you across the country to explore motor-driven industries.

Now, let’s give you a sneak peak of the Neoteric episode with some behind-the-scenes photos of the filming that took place at Neoteric’s headquarters in Terre Haute, Indiana …

You can see Aaron’s excitement about being at Neoteric in this photo with Steve Stafford, Flight Instructor and founder of Project H.E.R.O. (Hovercraft Emergency Response Operations) …

Aaron says his interest in hovercraft began as a child. “When I was a little kid I was always into trouble. I had this old dog named Ugly and a wagon, and I found some helicopter plans in Popular Mechanics so me and Ugly went sniffing around the neighborhood digging up what I deemed to be future helicopter parts. But they didn’t materialize into helicopter parts - because they weren’t helicopter parts. So I set my sights on hovercraft, and went around the neighborhood collecting hovercraft parts. As you can imagine, I never hovered or crafted. So it’s really neat to be standing now in a hovercraft facility!”

His excitement continued as company President Chris Fitzgerald showed Aaron how the Neoteric hovercraft’s patented reverse thrust buckets work …

As he learned how to build a Neoteric hovercraft, Aaron observed, “This isn’t mass production – these hovercraft are made specifically for each customer. I’m such a big fan of this type of production, where you’ve got a small number of employees putting their heart into whatever they do. And it’s a thing I can relate to, in my world of manufacturing; we have a small team and we love what we do and we keep things manageable.” 

In addition to learning and participating in Neoteric’s manufacturing procedures, Aaron also had the chance to operate a “hovering billiard ball”, one of 15 created for the U.S. comedian Gallagher – although Gallagher’s were built with a billiard ball top, not attached on this model …

After his time in the factory, Aaron spent the rest of the day learning to pilot a hovercraft on the Wabash River with President Chris Fitzgerald. Here, he readies for his first-ever hovercraft flight …

You can see more photos at the gallery link below. And check in with us often here and on Facebook – we’ll have lots more photos and videos of the filming for you before and after the Discovery Channel 10:00 p.m. Monday, September 9 air date of the Aaron Needs a Job episode featuring Neoteric. 

In the meantime, you might want to watch the show’s premiere episode, “What’s Old is New”, where Aaron tests a restored Sherman tank and fires the cannon, braves the dangers of coal mining and works on a steam train that has run for 150 years.

And don’t miss tonight’s episode, “Salvaging Speed”, where he flies an F-18 fighter jet, shreds old vehicles and takes on the world of tires at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel.

08 July, 2019

Neoteric featured in new Discovery Channel series

Wildly popular Fast ‘N’ Loud star Aaron Kaufman is stepping out of his comfort zone in a big way as he dives headfirst into mechanical worlds he's never experienced before … including the world of Neoteric Hovercraft! 

In a new Discovery Channel series, Aaron Needs a Job, Kaufman takes you on a wild ride around the country as he explores exciting motor-driven industries. He says, “I quit my job and walked away from Fast 'N’ Loud to pursue my passion for racing…and it nearly broke the bank…I am exploring the country in search of incredible places, industry and people that keep America running.”

Aaron and his film crew are at Neoteric this week to film an episode of the new series featuring Aaron building and flying a hovercraft with Neoteric President Chris Fitzgerald.

The producer, Lionsgate’s Pilgrim Media Group, says, “We chose Neoteric because we liked Chris' history with hovercraft and that he is one of the pioneers in hovercraft manufacturing. We liked that Chris also trains people to operate hovercraft as we wanted Aaron to have that experience. And, we liked the innovations that Neoteric has made to hovercraft with the reverse thrust system, etc.”

Neoteric is in good company! The series also includes visits to NASA, a Colorado coal mine, Nevada firefighters, the underbelly of the Las Vegas service industry, and much more.

Neoteric is honored to appear in this series and to be considered one of the "incredible places, industry and people that keep America running."

Stay tuned! In the next few days we’ll be posting photos and videos of the filming and more.

Aaron Needs A Job premieres JULY 15 at 10 PM on Discovery Channel.

The episode featuring Neoteric is tentatively scheduled to air SEPTEMBER 9.

27 June, 2019

Fire department’s new hovercraft used for water rescues

"Its versatility is what made the hovercraft a game-changer for water rescues, Chief McElfresh said. It can run over mud, dry land, the road, on water and swift water.

Seymour Tribune
June 26, 2019
by Jordan Richart

The latest floodwater rescue tool a fire department in central Jackson County has added to its arsenal of response vehicles has drawn plenty of curiosity from the public.

“You almost have to wait until late at night to go to the gas station,” Brownstown Volunteer Fire Department Chief Travis McElfresh joked. “Everywhere you go, people like to ask questions about it and see it up close.”

That mysterious, bizarre-looking craft is the department’s new Neoteric Hovercraft it purchased June 15.

During a recent discussion about the hovercraft outside the department, the vehicle drew a few passersby who wanted photos or more information about it.

A demonstration of the hovercraft on County Road 25E in Brownstown near floodwaters from the East Fork White River also drew a small audience who were eager to see it operate.
Brownstown Assistant Fire Chief Mitch Noelker demonstrates the use of the department's new hovercraft
in floodwaters off County Road 25E.
The oval-shaped craft is worth seeing, as the bottom is made up of 66 black fabric bags connected by heavy-duty zip ties and makes plenty of noise as it gears up. It is maneuvered by handlebars like a motorcycle and can reach a top speed of 70 miles per hour, but it is not recommended to go that fast. McElfresh said the craft can top out at 45 miles per hour on the water and 65 miles per hour on the ice.

The Neoteric Hovercraft is manufactured in Terre Haute and differs from boats and other hovercrafts in that it can go in reverse.

Hovercraft utilize one or more fans or propellers to create lift and thrust. Lift air is captured in a flexible fabric skirt, causing the craft to hover above the surface. Thrust air is directed backward to move the craft forward.

On June 15, McElfresh and Assistant Fire Chief Mitch Noelker received training on the Wabash River and returned late that night. Three hours later, the hovercraft was dispatched to its first rescue.

Since then, the department has used the four-seated craft to conduct 11 rescues involving 14 people, McElfresh said.
Brownstown Volunteer Fire Department Chief Travis McElfresh drives the department's new hovercraft during a rescue of a man June 19. Volunteer firefighter Clayton Keithley is pictured in the back of the craft.
Those numbers earned them recognition from Neoteric in a post on the company’s blog.
In Neoteric’s more than half a century in business, never has a fire department gone immediately from hovercraft flight training to performing a series of successful high-risk floodwater rescues,” the company wrote in its post.

The department had been considering purchasing a water rescue craft in the last year because of the number of water rescues in the area, McElfresh said. Between Jan. 1 and June 18, Jackson County had 55 calls for water rescues with nearly a third of them since June 1. There also was a high number reported during a recent span when the county received 8.24 inches of rain in seven days.

When a group from the department attended the fire convention show in April, they found the Neoteric, which was demonstrated for them on floodwaters afterward.

After discussions with the fire board, which controls the department’s budget, the department moved forward with the $40,000 purchase. McElfresh said the department kept in mind what other resources were available throughout the county, which is why they settled on a hovercraft.

The sheriff’s department has a johnboat, conservation has an airboat, so we decided to get a hovercraft,” he said. “All three of them can do different things. The johnboat can go places the airboat can’t. This can go where it can’t, vice versa. We didn’t want to double up on resources in the county.

Its versatility is what made the hovercraft a game-changer for water rescues, McElfresh said. It can run over mud, dry land, the road, on water and swift water,” he said.

When flying over land, there’s a 9-inch clearance. “If you come over a 9-inch log laying in a field, you just cruise over it like it wasn’t even there,” McElfresh said.

The craft also has the capability to go in reverse, which is not an option with an airboat. It also can turn 180 and 360 degrees. “When you’re pulling up to a vehicle, it makes it pretty easy,” McElfresh said.

During a recent rescue, a man was walking through floodwaters. McElfresh said the man was about 4 feet away from walking through swift-moving water. First responders told the man to stay put, and McElfresh was able to work the craft to the side until they could safely rescue him. We were able to get right up against him and pull him up,” he said.

The greatest benefit might be its role in assisting with rescues on ice. The craft will allow crews to make a rescue without putting weight on the ice. “You’re hovering on air and move on the ice without busting it up,” McElfresh said.
The Brownstown Fire Department’s new hovercraft is pictured outside the department.
So far, McElfresh and Noelker have received training to operate the hovercraft. McElfresh said once they get more hours behind the bars and get more comfortable, four others at the department will receive training.

The group also joined Project H.E.R.O., which stands for Hovercraft Emergency Response Operations, a nonprofit that serves during natural disasters. The department will receive additional training through that organization.

We’ll do joint training on the Wabash River,” McElfresh said.