Hover­craft comes home

Pilot - - OLD TIMERS - Re­port: Paul Fid­dian

Cush­ion­craft CC7 XX102 has left pri­vate stor­age in Lin­colnshire to join the pu­ta­tive Wight Avi­a­tion Museum’s grow­ing col­lec­tion of fu­ture ex­hibits at Sandown Air­port on the Isle of Wight. A pub­lic fundrais­ing ini­tia­tive had raised enough by late March to fi­nance the for­mer Bri­tish Army and Royal Navy hover­craft’s circa 500-mile move south to its is­land birthplace. With fur­ther do­na­tions, the Hover­craft Museum’s sup­port, and the as­sis­tance of for­mer Cush­ion­craft work­ers, restora­tion to dis­play stan­dard is planned.

Brit­ten-nor­man’s stud­ies into pi­o­neer­ing air-cush­ion ve­hi­cles, to trans­port goods in un­de­vel­oped na­tions with lim­ited or un­us­able ex­ist­ing con­nec­tions, re­sulted in a pro­to­type ma­chine named ‘Cush­ion­craft’ that it started test­ing in 1960. The com­pany’s hover­craft-fo­cused off­shoot, Cush­ion­craft Ltd, was launched the same year – ini­tially at Bem­bridge with Brit­ten-nor­man’s con­ven­tional air­craft works, later mov­ing to St He­lens - and con­tin­ued un­til sold to the Bri­tish Hover­craft Cor­po­ra­tion in 1971. First run in April 1968, the CC7 was the penul­ti­mate of five mod­els and the first for which mass pro­duc­tion was hoped. Un­like the pre­ced­ing CC hover­craft, the all-alu­minium, tenseat CC7 (two crew mem­bers and eight pas­sen­gers) was fit­ted with four-foot-wide in­flat­able rub­ber side-decks for im­pact pro­tec­tion and added buoy­ancy. Propulsion came from a 390bhp Pratt and Whit­ney ST-6B marine gas tur­bine en­gine (de­rived from the PT-6A light air­craft en­gine), giv­ing a max­i­mum speed of fifty knots.

One of three CC7S al­lo­cated UK mil­i­tary se­ri­als (the oth­ers be­ing XX101 and XW249), XX102 first served with 200 (Hover­craft) Squadron of the Royal Corps of Trans­port – the Bri­tish Army’s first op­er­a­tional hover­craft unit – then the Royal Navy’s Hover­craft Trial Unit at HMS Daedalus, which used it un­til 1982. It was more re­cently in long-term pri­vate own­er­ship at Tat­ter­shall Thorpe, near RAF Con­ingsby. www. wigh­tavi­a­tion­mu­seum.org.uk

ABOVE: CC7 XX102 ini­tially equipped the Bri­tish Army’s pi­o­neer­ing 200 (Hover­craft) Squadron

BE­LOW: XX102 in April af­ter its road and sea trip to Sandown

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