How can a rescue agency determine if a hovercraft would improve their first responders’ rescue capabilities – especially in ice rescues? An excellent way is to take a hovercraft flight training course. That’s exactly what the University of Wisconsin Lifesaving Station decided to do.
The UW Lifesaving Station provides rescue services for more than 40,000 students and the citizens of Madison who frequent the nearby 4-by-5-mile Lake Mendota. But as Supervisor Chris Kleppe explained, “We have no ice rescue capabilities at the Lifesaving Station – none whatsoever. We need to have some way to get out there to someone who might be in trouble – especially the ice fishermen because they have to travel across unsafe ice to get to the safe ice to fish. ATVs won’t do that. Once we saw a fisherman out on a hovercraft - okay, the light went on.”
Sean Geib, Assistant Supervisor, added, “We’ve learned there’s no such thing as common water sense. You’d be surprised how many people will walk out onto unsafe ice. There’s no worse feeling than watching somebody fall through the ice and being unable to do anything to help them.” He continued, “We came across the Neoteric website and it seemed like you had the complete package – reverse thrusters, length of time in the industry, etc., so we decided to pursue this.”
But to let them make sure a hovercraft will suit their needs, Neoteric President Chris Fitzgerald, also Senior Instructor at Hovercraft Training Centers, urged Sean and Chris to undergo pilot training on a Neoteric hovercraft before they placed their order. They agreed: “We know from just operating our rescue boats that the more training you have, the better you’re equipped to help someone out in emergency situations where your adrenaline is running high. We both also understood that a hovercraft is not a boat; this is something completely outside our realm of knowledge, so we decided it would be both advantageous and fun to get the training.”
Their training took place at HTC headquarters in Indiana on a freezing January day – showing them hands-on how well a hovercraft operates on ice. Below, view photos of their flight training, then read what they had to say about their training …
Chris Kleppe (left) and Sean Geib (right) receive thorough preflight instructions before their first flight training session.
Both trainees and the instructor wear wireless headsets so the trainees receive constant feedback and instruction throughout their flight sessions.
At the controls, Chris Kleppe experiences why a hovercraft is the only vehicle able to safely perform rescues
on thin or broken ice – and prevents first responders from having to enter icy water.
Chris Kleppe learns how to operate the HoverTrek’s reverse thrust system, which makes it
the only hovercraft with the ability to brake, hover in place, and back up at more than 25 mph.
The HoverTrek’s unusual buoyancy is demonstrated. This buoyancy gives all Neoteric hovercraft incomparable stability, enabling passengers to move around with danger of the craft tipping – extremely important in rescue operations.
Sean (left) and Chris (right) receive their Hovercraft Pilot & Maintenance Certifications from Chris Fitzgerald (center).
After their training, we received the following email from Chris Kleppe describing their experience:
“We both felt the training was very important. Floating on air is the best way to describe how it felt to me. Certainly the feeling was completely different than any other vehicles that I have piloted. Most surprising was the need to think way ahead of any maneuver that was made. Without the training, I could foresee a future disaster by way of a crash. To anyone trying to pilot the craft with no training I would say, ‘DO NOT DO IT.’ Plain and simple.
The hovercraft would be a useful tool for the Lifesaving Station during the freeze up and thaw out of the lake when the risk of someone going through the unsafe ice is very high. To perform winter lake safety work on Lake Mendota, I feel the Neoteric hovercraft would be essential.”
Learn more about the capabilities of Neoteric Rescue Hovercraft …
Learn more about the UW Lifesaving Station ...