Air power

Conche man pre­par­ing to test-run air­boat

Northern Pen - - Front page - KYLE GREENHAM kyle.greenham@north­ern­pen.ca

A Conche fish­er­man is pre­par­ing to test the air­boat he’s been pick­ing away at for two years.

Ben Fo­ley is now wait­ing in an­tic­i­pa­tion to send his self­made air­boat out onto the har­bour sea. He’s work­ing out some fi­nal kinks in its mo­tor and car­bu­re­tor and hopes to have it ready in the com­ing weeks.

“I know it’ll work, but will it work the way I want to it to – that’s what we got to see,” said Fo­ley. “It’ll be rough and ready when I’m fin­ished with it, but it stays to­gether and it works – that’s the main thing,”

Fo­ley had ini­tially tried to make an air­boat a few years ear­lier but ac­ci­den­tally spoiled the mo­tor. Two years ago, he de­cided to reignite the hobby and be­gan re­mak­ing the wa­ter­craft.

“Every now and then I’d get a spurt of en­ergy and go at it again,” said Fo­ley. “I’d get it done some­day, I fig­ured. Fi­nally, this year I got it up and near ready to go.”

Fo­ley pur­chased the pro­pel­lers and gear­box in British Columbia 15 years ago and built the boat’s body out of fi­bre­glass pan­els. The cage that the mo­tor and pro­pel­lers are sit­u­ated in Fo­ley also welded.

The mo­tor was taken from a truck and brought to a me­chanic to re­fur­bish as a ma­rine in­board/out­board mo­tor.

Re­cently, Fo­ley added a steer­ing wheel. But he is wait­ing to test it on the wa­ter to see if it’s go­ing to work the way he hopes. He says the process has in­volved a lot of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

“Ev­ery­thing was trial and er­ror for me. Never had no plans or noth­ing just had to go for it,” he said. “If one thing don’t work, I’ll take it apart and try again.”

Fo­ley used an old and con­demned fish­ing stage as a work­shop for the project, keep­ing the stage heated through­out the win­ter with a propane heater.

Fam­ily, neigh­bours and friends have come to visit Fo­ley as he’s worked away at the project, some with fas­ci­na­tion and some with crit­i­cism.

“Some­times they shake their heads won­der­ing how I could be so fool­ish,” Fo­ley said with a laugh. “But like the old fel­low said, ‘put your head down, saw the wood and keep at it’.”

If the boat proves suc­cess­ful this sum­mer, Fo­ley says he may try it out on a pond as well. Af­ter the first test run he plans to add muf­flers and an ex­haust to the air­boat. “I’ve been around boats all my life but this is new to me,” Fo­ley said. “It’s been an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for sure.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ben Fo­ley next to the air­boat he’s been work­ing away at for the past two years. He says the hobby is now ready for a test run in the com­ing weeks.

KYLE GREENHAM / THE NORTH­ERN PEN

Ben Fo­ley’s air­boat out­side his home in Conche. Fo­ley built the boat’s body, as well as the cage and rud­ders.

KYLE GREENHAM / THE NORTH­ERN PEN

Ben Fo­ley says there are a few more fixes and work needed on the air­boat’s mo­tor and car­bu­re­tor be­fore it can hit the wa­ter.

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