Hovercraft comes home
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