If you've ever wanted to master English by using the phrase "My hovercraft is full of eels," then it's time you learned about the history of the strange vehicle known as the hovercraft. Here is a photographic history of this legendary piece of technology.
The first hovercraft design, looks like an upside down boat, by Emanuel Swedenborg in Sweden, 1716
(via Wikimedia Commons)
The first working hovercraft-like vehicle by Dagobert Müller von Thomamühl, named Versuchsgleitboot System Thomamühl, Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1915-1916
(via Eugen Savoyen)
The first scientific description of the ground effect and theoretical methods of calculation of air cushion vehicles, by the Soviet Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, in his 1927 paper Air Resistance and the Express Train
The hovercrafts of Vladimir Levkov in the 1930s
The L-1, 1935
The L5, 1937
An assault hovercraft concept
(via Soviet Hammer)
Early prototypes by the Finnish Toivo J. Kaario, 1930s
An early Pintaliitäjä (Surface Soarer) prototype in 1935, tested on ice
His second prototype named Patosiipi No. 2 (1935) was able to lift, but it wasn't strong enough. In the next year he built a better one with a two-cylinder Harley-Davidson engine and put a skirt under the boat.
In 1939 the Patosiipi No. 8 was done and had a 53hp Porsche engine. It wasn't entirely flawless (there were vibration problems) but could reach 50 mph (80 kmh) with two people on board.
Glidemobile, designed and constructed by Charles Joseph Fletcher
The Saunders-Roe Nautical SR.N1, designed by Sir Christopher Cockerell and built in 1959 by Saunders-Roe in Great Britain
On the 50th anniversary of Louis Blériot's cross-channel fight, one of these hovercrafts crossed the English Channel from Calais to Dover in almost two hours.
The Aeromobile of William R. Bertelson, 1959
Princeton's Flying Saucer, 1959
A Cushioncraft, a circular vessel for use on banana plantations in Southern Cameroon with its designers Desmond Norman and John Britten, 1960
(via Terry Disney/Central Press/Getty Images)
A Hover Scooter, powered by a 250cc twin cylinder 2-stroke motorcycle engine, developed by American engineer Charles Rhoades, 1960
(via Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The Princeton P-GEM, made by students of Princeton University, 1960
Commercialisation of hovercrafts: small-scale ferry service started between the UK and France with Vickers-Armstrong VA-3s, 1962
(Photo by Tucker/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The first production-built hovercraft in the world, the British Saunders-Roe SR.N5 (or Warden class), 1964
The Princeton AgGem with the cockpit bubble of a Hughes 300 helicopter, made by a team in Princeton University, 1960s
(via Freeman Airfields)
The largest passenger hovercraft ever, the Saunders-Roe Nautical 4 (SR.N4) carried passengers and cars between Calais and Dover between 1968 and 2000.
The Mark I and Mark II models were 130.18 ft (39.68 m) long, but the Mark III (or Super 4) had an amazing 184.97 ft (56.38 m) length.
A London milkman delivering bottles of milk from a hovercraft, 1973
(Photo by Graham French/BIPs/Getty Images)
The 164 ft (50 m) long N500 Naviplane by the French SEDAM. Only two were built in 1976 and 1977.
The 300-ton Super 4 BHC Hovercraft named Princess Margaret on Thames, 1979
(Photo by Colin Davey/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
The British RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) hovercraft H-001 Molly Rayner, 2005
(Photo by Chris McKenna)