Here’s an article the Melbourne Sun published about Fitzgerald in the early 1960s …
YOUNG AUSTRALIAN BUILDS HOVERCRAFT
A young Australian, Christopher Fitzgerald, is anxiously awaiting the results of this year’s Science Talent Search.
Christopher’s main interest in life lies with hovercraft, and last year he won £10 in the same competition for the design of a wind tunnel for use in the design of these oddly shaped means of transport. He is hoping for even greater success this time.
has recently left school and has found himself a job at the Aeronautical
Research Laboratories in Melbourne. There he is doing the thing he most wants
to do - working with hovercraft.
|Christopher Fitzgerald with his experimental hovercraft.|
“Three years ago,” he said, “I was reading an article in a magazine about one of these strange crafts. At that time little was known about them. I became very interested and later built my first one, which was three feet by three feet, and constructed from balsa wood. It weighed a total of 6 lb. including the engine, which was a 3.5 c.c. model aeroplane one.
“It could carry a payload of 28 lb. but the weight was hard to distribute. To a degree I overcame this problem by building four little boxes on each of the corners of the hovercraft and these were filled with weights until it balanced from its point of gravity, which in my case was the prop on the engine.”
“In comparison with a model plane with the same size engine, it was found that the plane could carry only 3 lb., but the hovercraft could take 28 lb.
“Studying further, I found that a wind tunnel would be a great asset to the construction and designing of hovercraft, so I set about to build one. The first attempt was made out of wood and sheet metal.
“It was 15 feet long and had a vacuum cleaner engine, but this did not satisfy my needs. I then built another which was all metal and 18 feet long with a 5 phase electric motor with an air speed of 50 m.p.h.
“With this tunnel I won my £10 at the Science Talent Search but even so, it still does not do all I want it to do. I plan now to lengthen it and install a 28 h.p. truck engine with an estimated airspeed of 100 m.p.h.”
Christopher’s next hovercraft was constructed of aluminum and weighed 10 lb., being powered by a bigger engine than the first. He has made a number of attempts to use the air jets as a means of propulsion, but to date, none has been successful.
“Early last year when the Avalon pageant was announced, The Ultra Light Aircraft Association, of which I am a member, asked me to display my hovercraft on their stand.”
Since then, Christopher has taken his interest further by started a Hovercraft Research Association in Australia.
“We intend to develop hovercraft as a means of transport,” he said. “The reasons for such hopes are that we believe these craft to be the potential machine to revolutionise transport.
“A full-scale research plan has been started for the eventual building of a prototype machine.”
Because his interest in the air is not entirely limited to hovercraft, Christopher is also keen to learn to fly, and recently he and a friend bought a Puss Moth with money they earned from week-end clearing jobs. His pilot’s license is the next step.