Air-cush­ion ve­hi­cles com­ing to south­west Saskatchewan for in­au­gu­ral hov­er­craft rally

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Saskatchewan - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG— mlieben­

The Cana­dian Res­cue Hov­er­craft Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion (CRHPA) is host­ing the first ever Great Cana­dian Hover Rally in south­west Saskatchewan dur­ing the Au­gust long week­end.

The event will be an op­por­tu­nity for hov­er­craft own­ers to get to­gether and to pi­lot their ves­sels on Lake Diefen­baker, while mem­bers of the pub­lic will be able to take a closer look at these air-cush­ion ve­hi­cles dur­ing demon­stra­tion events in Swift Cur­rent on Aug. 3 and at Saskatchewan Land­ing Pro­vin­cial Park on Aug. 4.

John Maczko, the founder and pres­i­dent of the CRHPA, ex­pects there will be be­tween six and 10 hov­er­craft present dur­ing the week­end, in­clud­ing home-built hov­er­craft. There will also be spe­cial­ized equip­ment on dis­play that are used by mem­bers of the Am­phibi­ous Re­sponse Sup­port Unit No. 1 (ARSU1).

“There’s go­ing to be a lot to see and a lot to take in,” he said. “Some very unique things will be hap­pen­ing. ... We’re hop­ing that we can en­cour­age peo­ple to come out and spend some time with us, ask as many ques­tions as they like, take a lot of pho­tos, and hope­fully it will also en­cour­age some, both young and old, to get in­volved in hov­er­craft, which we love to pro­mote to them.”

Hov­er­craft own­ers and pi­lots from across western Canada and pos­si­bly even from the United States will at­tend the rally.

“Our pi­lots are very in­ter­ested in hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to see other craft as well as fly­ing with fel­low pi­lots,” he said. “The evenings, when we get to­gether, there’s go­ing to be a lot of sto­ries that are told and a lot of tech­niques that’s go­ing to be dis­cussed. That’s what they’re look­ing to get out of it. It’s those dis­cus­sions, it’s sit­ting down over a camp­fire in the evening and talk­ing about how we pi­lot our craft and the con­di­tions and a lot of things that go along with that.”

The rally will kick off on Aug. 3 with a demon­stra­tion event in the park­ing lot at River­side Park in Swift Cur­rent from 1-5 p.m. A num­ber of hov­er­craft will be on lo­ca­tion as well as ARSU1 mem­bers with their spe­cial­ized equip­ment.

“We will be con­duct­ing some demon­stra­tions and we will be pro­vid­ing safety and other tips,” he said. “We’ll talk about wa­ter safety, we’ll talk about ice safety. ... For the kids we’re go­ing to have a num­ber of dif­fer­ent fo­rums and ways that we can in­volve the young folks in learn­ing about wa­ter safety. So we’ll have some games go­ing on.”

A Cana­dian-built AR45 hov­er­craft, which is well suited for the ex­treme chal­lenges of the Cana­dian en­vi­ron­ment, will be on dis­play. Maczko is hop­ing to also have a Rus­sian-built Christy hov­er­craft at the event, which is the first of its kind to be com­ing to Canada.

“We are just hop­ing it ar­rives in time, be­cause it’s in tran­sit right now,” he said. “They are a lit­tle bit big­ger and they’re a very mod­ern ver­sion. They unit that I’ve seen com­ing in is quite some­thing. It is re­ally more of a lux­ury model and prob­a­bly costs about US$200,000.”

From Aug. 4-6 the rally ac­tiv­i­ties will be based at the Saskatchewan Land­ing Pro­vin­cial Park. A sim­i­lar pub­lic event will take place on Aug. 4 dur­ing an open day at Cot­ton­wood Beach from 10 a.m. un­til about 5 p.m. There will be a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the day for all ages and op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn about wa­ter safety. Food ven­dors will be present to of­fer food, drinks and ice cream to vis­i­tors.

In ad­di­tion to see­ing the hov­er­craft close up, this event will be an op­por­tu­nity to watch demon­stra­tions both on the shore and on the wa­ter.

“You’re go­ing to be able to see our ve­hi­cles in mo­tion, be­cause on the Fri­day, depend­ing on the wa­ter lev­els and what hap­pens, we may have a hov­er­craft on the creek or we may not,” he said. “It’s kind of up in the air, be­cause we need to en­sure that all of the con­di­tions are met.”

On Aug. 4 some of the hov­er­craft will travel on the wa­ter to Beaver Flat Ma­rina, Her­bert Ferry Re­gional Park and Prairie Lake Re­gional Park.

“We wel­come folks to be on site,” he said. “They’re ex­pected to ar­rive some­where around noon. So we in­vite peo­ple to be out there be­fore 12 o’clock and cheer them on as our hov­er­crafters come on to shore.”

The rest of the week­end will be an op­por­tu­nity for the hov­er­craft pi­lots to use their ves­sels on Lake Diefen­baker. On the morn­ing of Aug. 5 they will pro­vide sup­port on the wa­ter dur­ing the Saskatchewan Land­ing triathlon, which will be a test event for the 2019 Western Canada Sum­mer Games. Af­ter­wards the hov­er­craft pi­lots will take an­other trip on the lake to­wards Cabri Re­gional Park and Es­ton River­side Re­gional Park.

“The pub­lic will be able to en­gage with us at those lo­ca­tions,” he said. “So if they’re out and about in those areas, keep an eye out for us be­cause we plan to leave some­where around 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock.”

Vis­i­tors to Saskatchewan Land­ing Re­gional Park might still see the hov­er­craft pi­lots on the wa­ter on Aug. 6, when they will do freestyle hov­er­craft­ing.

The CRHPA was es­tab­lished in 2015 to rep­re­sent both pro­fes­sional and leisure hov­er­craft pi­lots in a sin­gle or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“We pro­vide a fo­rum for all mem­bers that are in­volved in pi­lot­ing such craft to en­sure that we have a set level of stan­dards when we op­er­ate and pi­lot the var­i­ous types of craft that we use across Canada and abroad,” he said. “At the mo­ment we are un­der 50, be­cause most of the peo­ple that are join­ing are in fact ac­tively work­ing with their craft, and the num­ber of pi­lots across Canada are rel­a­tively small in com­par­i­son to the U.S.”

The CRHPA ini­ti­ated the con­cept of am­phibi­ous re­sponse sup­port units for pro­fes­sional hov­er­craft pi­lots that are in­volved in first re­sponse and emer­gency sup­port roles. The in­ten­tion is to cre­ate such units across the coun­try and the first one, ARSU1, was es­tab­lished for Saskatchewan about two years ago and it now has more than 11 mem­bers.

“Our unit is rel­a­tively new,” he said. “We are now build­ing our unit, but we have had sit­u­a­tions where we had call outs. We’re en­gaged with many first re­spon­ders across the prov­ince.”

Maczko, who has a law en­force­ment back­ground and is a cer­ti­fied swift wa­ter res­cue tech­ni­cian, leads the ARSU1 in Regina. He learned to op­er­ate a hov­er­craft while liv­ing in the United King­dom in 2005. He was the di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions of a first re­spon­der unit in Europe be­fore re­turn­ing to Canada in 2014, and he was part of a team that pro­vided as­sis­tance dur­ing ma­jor flood­ing of the Great Danube River in cen­tral Europe.

CRHPA mem­bers share an in­ter­est in air-cush­ioned ve­hi­cles and a de­sire to op­er­ate these ve­hi­cles in a safe and or­ga­nized man­ner. They also take wa­ter and ice safety very se­ri­ous, and one of the goals of the pub­lic events dur­ing the Great Cana­dian Hover Rally is to raise aware­ness about these is­sues.

“Our as­so­ci­a­tion re­cently signed on to the Saskatchewan Safety Char­ter and Mis­sion Zero cam­paign, and we as an or­ga­ni­za­tion and as a unit be­lieve that ev­ery ac­ci­dent is pre­ventable” he said. “We also be­lieve that the best way that we can in­flu­ence ac­ci­dents from hap­pen­ing is to talk about safety and preven­tion.”

The CRHPA de­cided to host the in­au­gu­ral rally in south­west Saskatchewan be­cause of the en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse to the idea from the Swift Cur­rent Fire Depart­ment, Tourism Swift Cur­rent and other or­ga­ni­za­tions they spoke to in the re­gion.

“They made all the dif­fer­ence in the world when we talked about what we do and the in­ter­est that was shown, the sup­port that was shown, and the hos­pi­tal­ity that we’ve re­ceived from Swift Cur­rent and the sur­round­ing area has been phe­nom­e­nal,” he said. “It’s much eas­ier to start to plan an event when you have an ex­cel­lent work­ing re­la­tion­ship with very ded­i­cated peo­ple.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the CRHPA and the 2018 Great Cana­dian Hover Rally, visit the as­so­ci­a­tion's web­site at

Pho­tos con­trib­uted by John Maczko

A hov­er­craft can be used for res­cue op­er­a­tions in areas that might be dif­fi­cult to reach by other ve­hi­cles.

The Cana­dian-made AR45 hov­er­craft is suitable for use in the ex­tremes of the Cana­dian cli­mate.

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