Tribune-Star EditorialAug. 1, 2013
Hovering over a Terre Haute success
Finally, the world knows about Neoteric
Chris Fitzgerald’s Neoteric Hovercraft company of Terre Haute has become an overnight international success and a viral novelty in cyberspace.
Overnight, though, only if you translate that as meaning decades of envisioning, designing and building hovercraft in relative obscurity. Overnight in the same sense as an actor who becomes a Broadway star after decades of toiling in summer stock.
To most of the world, the successes of Fitzgerald and his crew on Tippecanoe Street are breaking news – all owing to the game of golf.
It was April when a Floridian named Bubba flew one of Neoteric’s customized craft over a golf course. Other players in their wheeled golf carts watched in amazement as 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson floated on a bubble of air from shot to shot, nine inches off the ground, in a HoverGolf Cart, a craft whose footprint pressure is 33 times lighter than the human foot. And the craft leaves no spike marks, divots or golf cart tracks.
Fitzgerald was front and center in the video of Bubba’s hovercraft outing, narrating much of it and appearing in its opening section.
A few days later, NBC “Today” show co-hosts Matt Lauer and Al Roker showed a national morning TV audience how the hovering golf cart worked.
Last Friday, Indiana Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-8th, visited Neoteric’s plant to consider working to make Neoteric in Terre Haute a training center for the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
The next day, on a Saturday made for golf, Windy Knoll Golf Club in Springfield, Ohio, became the first of the world’s 35,000 golf courses to offer the Neoteric model, [the official replica of Bubba Watson’s BW1] to its players at what it termed the “Hover Bash.”
You’ll forgive Fitzgerald if he’s scratching his head and wondering what took so long. He said as much in an interview with Yahoo! News in April: “I’ve been in this business for 50 years. You can pull your hair out trying to figure out how to get this information out that this [hovercraft] technology exists. In one fell swoop, [Bubba’s Hover has] gotten across all these hovercraft concepts to people.”
Fitzgerald, a native of Melbourne, Australia, who says his first experience with hovercraft came in 1959, is “kind of a celebrity now,” Thinkmodo marketing company’s Michael Krivicka told Yahoo! News. “Millionaires from Russia are calling him, placing orders.”
Much less known than the golf outings is that two of Neoteric’s craft were used in May to help divers out of the water after the collapse of an Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington state.
And perhaps forgotten is that Fitzgerald’s craft have been used several times to rescue local residents who were threatened by flood waters, as in that terrible day in June 2008 when heavy rains fell and deep water rose, especially in southern Vigo County.
With Neoteric’s newfound international notoriety comes a definite benefit for Terre Haute. As Neoteric’s Filip Przbysz told our Arthur Foulkes in a story a few days ago: “This could put Terre Haute on the world map.”
And it already has, and deserves the community’s congratulations.
It joins DADC, Bemis, the old Columbia Records, Larry Bird, Indiana State University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and others in bringing worldwide distinction to Terre Haute and Vigo County.
But the difference with Neoteric is that it truly is riding on air.