Across the Channel in a hovercraft

hovercraft, SRN1, English Channel, 25 July 1959, Louis Bleriot, Cristopher Cockerell, Peter Lamb, John ChaplinExactly 55 years ago, the world’s first practical hovercraft drove across the English Channel in a shade over two hours.

The machine, designed by Christopher Cockerell and built by the company Saunders-Roe, was the first one to be able to travel large distances. It used a radial piston engine to power a fan. The air currents from this created a cushion of air underneath the hovercraft, keeping it suspended above the ground and, later, the sea.

It was piloted by Captain Pater Lamb, the navigator was John Chaplin and Cockerell himself joined the crew.

Its achievement was a landmark moment in the history of cross-Channel travel, with notable other crossings including Louis Bleriot’s heavier-than-air aircraft crossing in 1909, Yves Rossy’s jetpack crossing in 2008 and the first ever swim across the Channel by Matthew Webb in 1875.