Christopher Cockerell's tethered demonstration hovercraft model, 1955.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This is a replica of the model Experimental Hovercraft built in 1955 by Christopher Cockerell (1910-1999) to test his idea for an air cushion vehicle. The original was powered by a 5 CC model aircraft engine driving 3 model aircraft propellers stacked together to form a fan. In 1959 the Westland SRN1, based on this model, became the first practical hovercraft. It used a gas turbine engine to power a large aircraft propeller, which drew air into a space beneath the craft. The air cushion was contained by a rubber skirt, and a second propeller moved the vehicle forward. Hovercraft have been succesfully utilised as ferries, asault craft, and survey vesels.