Store offers innovative flying hovercraft for $190,000

The 70 mph Universal hovercraft can fly over land, sea and even snow.
Written by Tuan Nguyen, Contributor

While owning a Yacht has become somewhat of a rite of passage for the disgustingly wealthy, it's so yesterday. For a more cutting-edge way to show off, Mail order catalog company Hammacher Schlemmer is offering tycoons a rare opportunity to purchase a flying hovercraft for $190,000.

The 3-seat vehicle features a 130 horsepower twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine with a coasting range of 160 miles on two full nine gallon gas tanks. The body consists of carbon composite and wood and features a sleek winged design that enables it to go at speeds up to 70 mph. Beneath the vehicle is a 1,100 rpm 34-inch fan that inflates the vinyl-coated nylon skirt, producing the hovering effect. Using a joystick, the pilot can maneuver over several different terrains like swamps, snow and sand by adjusting the vehicle's hovering height and traveling mode.

Hovercraft technology has been used primarily by the military for situations such as search and rescue operations. But there was a time in the 1960's that companies explored viable designs for commercial transportation. For instance, engineers in France attempted for some time to develop the Aerotrain, a hovertrain that worked similarly to levitating Maglev trains, but without the need for elaborate track systems. Designers felt the concept was promising because flat surfaces like paved roads required very low air pressure, making it energy efficient enough to compete with railways.

There were, however, some troublesome issues. The most obvious being having all that air blowing out from underneath, making it a challenge for passengers to board at stations. Eventually funding problems doomed these early projects and the Maglev train won out.

But like many unique vehicles that never quite panned out commercially, the hovercraft may find a second life as a rich guy's toy.

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