27 April, 2014

Neoteric hosts Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior

Although Neoteric may be hidden away in Terre Haute, Indiana, the scope of our business is thoroughly global, with clientele in more than 50 nations.

Indicative of Neoteric’s international reach, a delegation of Major Generals from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Interior’s Directorate of Civil Defense recently visited Terre Haute to learn more about Neoteric hovercraft and take a Test Flight at Hovercraft Training Centers.

The delegation poses for a quick photo before they begin their Test Flight on the Wabash River. From left: Major General Al Garni Abdullah Mohammed, Major General Almohammadi, Hasan Eid T, Major General Almubdel Hamad Abdulaziz, Major General Abojalid Saad Abdulrahman and, in the rear seat, Neoteric founder / Hovercraft Training Centers Senior Instructor Chris Fitzgerald …

Although Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s driest nations, in recent years it has been severely afflicted by flash floods resulting in casualties. In January 2014 Saudi Civil Defense received more than 8,212 emergency calls in 24 hours during a flood in Riyadh. In March, seven people died in floods that hit the northern Saudi province Hail. And in both 2009 and 2011, floods devastated the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, killing hundreds.

Because the Saudi flooding consists of deluges of swiftwater in which rescue boats and in-water rescue equipment cannot be used, the Ministry of Interior is considering the use of hovercraft for flood rescue operations. Since hovercraft fly above the surface and can navigate through fast-flowing currents, they are often the only viable vehicle for flood rescue efforts.

Flood conditions existed on the Wabash River during their test flight, and the demonstration included accessing flooded farm fields. The current on the Wabash was flowing at 6-7 mph in places – similar to the swiftwater experienced in the Jeddah floods.

During their test flight, the Saudi Major Generals experienced the unequaled capability of the Neoteric hovercraft’s reverse thrust system, which enables it to fly backward and brake, unlike other hovercraft on the market. This ability is particularly essential in flood rescues, when debris must be avoided, and often the only way out is to back up ...

After their Test Flight, Chris Fitzgerald gave the delegation a tour of the Neoteric Hovercraft factory …

After fully documenting their visit to Neoteric Hovercraft to aid in their decision-making, the Saudi Major Generals traveled to the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to attend the FDIC Show, the annual Fire Department Instructor Conference & Exhibition, which is the world’s largest firefighter training conference.

23 April, 2014

Neoteric Hovercraft makes learning fun at Sarah Scott Middle School

From remote controlled hovercraft, to comedian Gallagher’s hovering billiard balls, to actual flights in a Neoteric hovercraft, the students at Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute, IN have discovered that studying can be the most fun thing you can do!

Mark Kirby, a Sarah Scott technology instructor, wanted to find a way to better prepare his students for their ISTEP tests coming up later this month. So he and his fellow teachers capitalized on being located in the same city as Neoteric Hovercraft: they created a special Saturday program using the hovercraft as a vehicle to illustrate to their students that the math and language arts skills tested on ISTEP do have a practical application.

Using a small remote controlled hovercraft, Neoteric President Chris Fitzgerald explains hovercraft skirts
and their importance in trapping the cushion air under the hovercraft - how the skirt acts as a seal
to hold air under the craft.
Kirby explains the program, “We invited any middle school student interested in participating and invited at least one of their parents to attend as well.  As it turned out we had a few siblings attend that weren't quite middle school age, making it a true family activity.  So the ages ranged from 3rd graders to 8th graders (ages 8 - 14).
For this activity the hovercraft was used as the focal point to springboard discussions in math and language arts and practice work,” he continues, “The staff divided the tasks of organizing this activity among several teachers - some organized the food, others planned the math and language arts practice work, and others organized the "building a hovercraft from a CD" activity.” 

The students experience one of 15 “hovering billiard balls” Neoteric manufactured for the U.S. comedian Gallagher – a small hovercraft powered by a leaf blower and equipped with jupe skirts. Gallagher’s were built with a billiard ball top, not attached on this model.
And then the students moved on to the real thing! They were thrilled with their first ever ride in a hovercraft
around the Sarah Scott Middle School parking lot.

Title 1 funded this special hovercraft program at Sarah Scott Middle School. As the largest federally funded education program in the United States, Title 1 supports students and staff in high poverty areas with additional staff and funding to meet the needs of struggling learners.

We at Neoteric encourage teachers and school administrations worldwide to take advantage of the interest hovercraft can awaken in your students and how they can be used to teach math, physics and other areas of learning. Studying is a recreational activity when it involves hovercraft!

One great way to see how learning can soar to new heights is to join the Neoteric-founded DiscoverHover International School Hovercraft Program …

18 April, 2014

Neoteric hovercraft rescues hitchhiker thrown from bridge

Neoteric hovercraft have certainly been in the news recently when it comes to mud rescues. First, the Snohomish County hovercraft were invaluable in the search and rescue operations at the Oso, Washington mudslide – and this week Wylie Fire-Rescue in Texas performed an unusual mud rescue mission.

On Wednesday night at a rest stop in Dallas, Texas, 23-year-old Mario Otteson accepted a ride from five teenagers in a van. But when they reached the bridge over Lake Ray Hubbard, they stopped the van, dragged Otteson out, assaulted him and threw him over the side of the bridge.

Lake levels are low and Otteson landed in thick mud, from which he couldn’t escape. Fortunately, he had a cell phone and called 9-1-1. Dallas Police and Dallas Fire-Rescue attempted to rescue him, but finally called Wylie Fire-Rescue to bring their hovercraft to do the job.

Wylie’s Neoteric rescue craft had no problem navigating the mud and extricating Otteson. Luckily he suffered only minor scrapes, but the case was reported as an aggravated assault because of the possibility of severe injuries.

This is yet another example of the importance of hovercraft for law enforcement and rescue agencies. A boat or any other rescue vehicle cannot navigate through thick mud, but a hovercraft gives rescuers sure access to areas boats, and even helicopters, can’t reach. And the Neoteric craft, with its patented reverse thrust system, is the only hovercraft that gives them the ability to brake and back up. Sometimes backing up is the only way out – especially in mud rescues!

06 April, 2014

Hovercraft: Always in the news

There’s nothing like a hovercraft to bring you publicity. (Remember Bubba’s Hover!) It doesn’t matter whether you’re a golf pro, a business, a law enforcement agency, the military, or an outdoors enthusiast who knows the best way to enjoy nature – a hovercraft is going to attract the media.

Neoteric customer Gary Meyers and his unique recreational HoverTrek just finished a photo shoot for an upcoming feature in Arizona’s Coastal Life Magazine, "Fun Stuff for People to do in Lake Havasu City" …

From the left: Coastal Life photographer Eddo Early, reporter Kevin Baird, Gary Meyers - and Joey Meyers, the Official Hovercraft Training Centers HoverPup - are ready to hover …

As always, Joey the HoverPup was the star of the photo shoot, shown here geared up with his Mutt Muffs and sunglasses, on board his hovercraft with Gary and Pam Meyers …

01 April, 2014

On-the-scene report from Oso, Washington mudslide

Snohomish County Fire District 19’s two Neoteric hovercraft have been deployed in the rescue and recovery efforts at the Oso, Washington mudslide since the initial alarm and will remain active during the coming days as water levels lower and more area becomes available to search.

Those of us following the tragedy on the news cannot even begin to grasp the vast wasteland created by the mudslide. Trent Nunemaker, President of Fire District 19 and a primary first responder in the effort, has reported in from the scene, giving us a better understanding of the devastation created by one of the worst landslides in U.S. history.

In 2011, Trent Nunemaker (right) and Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Swearengin (left) were trained to pilot Fire District 19’s Neoteric rescue hovercraft by Chris Fitzgerald (center) at Hovercraft Training Centers.
The number of confirmed fatalities has now reached 24, with 22 still missing. One of the rescuers on Trent’s team was personally affected, losing family members when his home was swept away by the slide. “Fortunately,” Trent says, “the amount of support we have received from the local community and from around the nation has been overwhelming.”

Trent describes the scene: “The only way I can describe the debris field is that it looks as though a bomb has gone off. Most first responders have seen the damage done when a car hits a tree at high speed. Try to imagine what would happen if a forest of trees hit a neighborhood at 100 mph. Everything from vehicles to homes have been completely destroyed and spread across a half mile debris field.

Rescuers have been hampered by rain all week and are contending with treacherous conditions such as sewage, household chemicals and gasoline and propane containers. When first responders and search dogs leave the site, they must be hosed down by hazardous materials crews. As an on-site spokesman said, “We're worried about dysentery, we're worried about tetanus, we're worried about contamination.”

Trent goes on to explain the unequaled utility of rescue hovercraft in such situations: “The slide area contains several hazardous environments - impenetrable debris fields, large clay islands, and a debris field that is completely flooded by the backed-up Stillaguamish River. Initially the river was completely blocked by the slide, which caused a large portion of the debris field to flood. But our hovercraft can navigate through floating debris and logs, so we’re able to cross the flooded valley and access the debris field. Unfortunately, much of the debris contains nails and other sharp building hardware which tend to catch on the skirts of the hovercraft. We've overcome this by hovering low in the water and pushing such debris aside with the fiberglass body of the craft."

He adds, "These Neoteric craft are able to quickly and safely access almost any environment.

Besides their search and rescue role, hovercraft serve additional functions in disaster scenarios like this one. Trent elaborates, “We're also using the hovercraft to transport and retrieve personnel and rescue equipment to and from the debris field and other areas that are hard to access by any other means. They’re an excellent platform to rapidly reach our teams working out of smaller unpowered inflatables which have incorporated search dogs.

He continues, “During one day’s search operations I was assigned Safety Officer for water operations and used one of the hovercraft to keep track of all the watercraft operating in the debris field. The hovercraft was very well-suited for this job as it allowed me to quickly reach crews in the field to assist in the event of an emergency.”

"We're constantly coming up with new uses for our hovercraft," says Trent. "Recently we've worked on techniques to lower our craft by ropes down steep embankments. This has proven to be very successful and allows us to take advantage of more launch sites. Our hovercraft have become a critical tool in our swiftwater rescue team’s operations. Every second counts when it comes to water emergencies and the hovercraft allow us to access all our district’s waterways quickly and safely."

The Washington mudslide is not the first time the hovercraft have been a critical tool for Snohomish County. In May of last year, the craft were called in when a portion of an Interstate 5 bridge collapsed, dropping vehicles and passengers into the Skagit River 60 miles north of Seattle.

The important role of hovercraft in search and rescue operations like these helps us understand that these unusual craft have a far greater purpose than simply serving as recreational vehicles or golf carts. Hovercraft are critical rescue equipment that, time and time again, save lives and protect first responders in dire situations where no other vehicles can perform.