Air Engineering Technicians (AETs) from the Defence College of Technical Training's Royal Naval Air Engineering and Survival Equipment School, HMS Sultan have been working hard to help prepare the Hovercraft Museum in Lee-On-The-Solent for visitors.
Taking on a number of different maintenance tasks, the group's main objective was to restore Skirts to several of the Hovercraft, including the first production hovercraft in the world, the SRN5, which had been trialled by the Interservice Hovercraft Trials Unit (IHTU) at HMS Daedalus from the early 1960s.
Led throughout by Survival Equipment Instructor, Leading Air Engineering Technician Adam Bland the group got straight into the project. Adam said: "The Skirt was covered in dust and rust and in a few separate pieces. We had to take out old rivets and old pieces of wire that had rusted over a number of years and replace them all with brand new rivets and hanging wires to generally make it look as realistic as it once was when it was functional."
"It's not just the link to the Navy history that makes this project a good one to be involved with, but it's also the link with Sultan and the local community and the trainees have really got a sense of achievement, doing something which they thought would take 2 days all done in one day."
The IHTU was formed in 1961. Starting out as a Tri-Service unit where the Navy, Army, RAF and Royal Marines all came to test Hovercraft, it became the Naval Hovercraft Training Unit in 1975.
Having carried out trials all over the world, including North Africa's deserts and Indonesia's Sumatra Jungle, in multiple roles including anti-submarine warfare and Mine Countermeasures, it was decided in 1982 that the Unit had performed its purpose and it was disbanded.
Since the closure of the Unit, hovercraft have continued to play an important role within the military, with the Royal Marines still using them in Service today.
The Hovercraft Museum has over 80 Hovercraft to view, including several generations of Royal Marines craft, Royal Navy Hovercraft, as well as Army and civilian craft. The collection includes hovercraft right through from single seater craft, including one used in a James Bond chase, through to 400 ton cross channel hovercraft.
From January the Museum will open for the first time on a full time basis. Museum Trustee Warwick Jacobs, said: "The Museum has been on site since 1989 and it's a big jump for us from being an amateur collection to a proper museum. The lads have been helping us get the whole place shipshape before our first visitors."
"It's been absolutely fantastic having the guys here, as with only 6 weeks before we open, two of our main exhibits now have skirts. Having a Hovercraft without a Skirt is only half a hovercraft. It's the skirts which made them what they were, so it's been tremendous for us as they look like Hovercraft again."
Among the group of trainees enjoying the experience was 21 year old AET Michael Durrant who joined the Royal Navy after completing an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering. He said: "I didn't really want to be stuck in a factory all my life and saw this as a better career. I'm loving doing something new. Not everyone can say that they have worked on helping to maintain Hovercraft. It's something special that you can share with your family at the end of the day."
For further information on the museum please visit www.hovercraft-museum.org
For further information on the Royal Navy please visit www.royalnavy.mod.uk
Photos By L(Phot) Dave Jenkins ©