An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

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

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Wikimedia Commons)

The first working hovercraft-like vehicle by Dagobert Müller von Thomamühl, named Versuchsgleitboot System Thomamühl, Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1915-1916

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(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

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Thomas W. Becker: The Race for Technology Conquering the High Frontier/Google Books, p. 113, FantLab, KnigaFund and Wikimedia Commons)

The hovercrafts of Vladimir Levkov in the 1930s

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

The L-1, 1935

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

The L5, 1937

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An assault hovercraft concept

(via Soviet Hammer)

Early prototypes by the Finnish Toivo J. Kaario, 1930s

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An early Pintaliitäjä (Surface Soarer) prototype in 1935, tested on ice

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

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.

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

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.

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Axishistory and Pertti Korhonen: Toivo Kaario/PDF in Finnish)

Glidemobile, designed and constructed by Charles Joseph Fletcher

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(Photos by Ad Meskens and William Maloney)

The Saunders-Roe Nautical SR.N1, designed by Sir Christopher Cockerell and built in 1959 by Saunders-Roe in Great Britain

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

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.

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Zeably, Brocki and Edward Miller/Getty Images)

The Aeromobile of William R. Bertelson, 1959

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Popular Science, July 1959)

Princeton's Flying Saucer, 1959

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Popular Science, July 1959)

A Cushioncraft, a circular vessel for use on banana plantations in Southern Cameroon with its designers Desmond Norman and John Britten, 1960

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(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

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The Princeton P-GEM, made by students of Princeton University, 1960

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Freeman Airfields and Science And Mechanics/June 1960)

Commercialisation of hovercrafts: small-scale ferry service started between the UK and France with Vickers-Armstrong VA-3s, 1962

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(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

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Glass Half Full and from All Hands Magazine Nov 1966/PDF)

The Princeton AgGem with the cockpit bubble of a Hughes 300 helicopter, made by a team in Princeton University, 1960s

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(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.

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

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.

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Andrew Berridge and Wikimedia Commons)

A London milkman delivering bottles of milk from a hovercraft, 1973

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(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.

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Aernav)

The 300-ton Super 4 BHC Hovercraft named Princess Margaret on Thames, 1979

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(Photo by Colin Davey/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

The British RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) hovercraft H-001 Molly Rayner, 2005

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(Photo by Chris McKenna)

VertiPod, the Segway of the Sky, by Air Buoyant

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via The Herald Bulletin and Gizmodo)

A Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) of the United States Navy, 2006

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(Photo by Michael D. Kennedy/U.S. Navy via Getty Images, U.S. Navy 12)

A Zubr Class Russian LCAC with weapons, the largest hovercraft ever

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via U.S. Navy and Kremlin)

Firefighter hovercraft in Germany, 2009

An Illustrated History of the Hovercraft

(via Stoaberg)