Trivia Minute June 11, 2015

103: My Hovercraft is Full of Trivia

by Marcus Michelson
A Lithuanian Coast Guard hovercraft with its engine on and air skirt inflated (Photo by Bahnfrecd via Wikicommons)
A Lithuanian Coast Guard hovercraft with its engine on and air skirt inflated (Photo by Bahnfrend via Wikicommons)

On June 11, 1959, the first hovercraft was launched off the coast of England.

Here are a few things you may not have known about hovercrafts.

First, the hovercraft was invented by ship designer Christopher Cockerell, who was trying to create a way for boats to go faster by reducing the friction with water. His first experiment involved floating a cat food can inside a coffee can.

Second, he was able to get funding from the British military in 1955, but development was stalled due to its designation as a military secret. Eventually Cockerell was able to declassify the hovercraft and secure commercial funding.

Third, hovercrafts were widely used to transport people and vehicles across the English Channel. More than 80 million people and more than 12 million cars made the crossing before service was stopped in 2000 due to increased competition.

Our question: Besides other types of ferry boats, what was the main competition that pushed hovercrafts out of business on the English Channel?

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