One of the big problems experience by hovercraft manufacturers, and a huge factor in determining hovercraft prices is skirt construction. Even though ACVs don't actually touch the ground, they don't really hover over the surface in a consistent fashion either. Inevitably they rock around a little, or a lot, depending upon their size. Really big craft hardly rock at all, but do encounter quite big obstructions as they meander across mixed terrain. For huge craft like the Russian Zubr class troop carrier, it's not too much of an issue, as this monster vehicle floats 7 feet off the ground. Imagine being underneath that thing as it passes over - the noise alone would kill you.
The skirt issue becomes more acute with small hovercraft purchased for personal use - see this report click here . The overall area of the hull is small compared to the height of the craft and is inherently less stable. Add to this the fact that little air cushioned craft are steered and controlled in a very different way than the big boys. Handlebars are normally employed, just like a motorbike, and are turned in the direction of travel and while this does in fact turn the craft, it's quite a slow affair. If used for racing, for example, it just isn't quick enough. Faster turns are negotiated by the operator throwing his body weight in the same direction to maximize the impact of the manoeuvre.
The combination of the handlebar action and the new weight distribution characteristics causes the ACV to tilt and the skirt touches the ground, which can in itself cause friction wear over a period of time. If there happened to be a rock or other immovable object in the path, then extensive damage might occur, ripping the skirt and drastically reducing the lift available to keep the hovercraft off the ground and moving forwards.
Some hovercraft manufacturers have move away from the traditional skirt materials such rip-stop sail cloth, extensively used for large and small ocean going sailing boats, and at the same time re-designed the actual skirt method of fabrication to reduce the costs of such damage. Modern methods include the use of tougher materials like Kevlar, which is bullet proof and extensively by the military and police forces, ad other similar fabrics covered in a durable layer of Neoprene. In addition, skirts can be fabricated in relatively small sections and loosely clipped together during construction. This means that if one section is damaged, then it's possible to change a small part 'on the fly', which drastically reduces the cost of the hovercraft.
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