Hovertravel is a ferry company operating from Southsea, Portsmouth to Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK. It is the only passenger hovercraft company currently operating in Britain since Hoverspeed stopped using its craft in favour of catamarans and ceasing all ferry operations in 2005. Hovertravel is now the world's oldest hovercraft operator,[1] and this service is believed to be unique in western Europe.[2] The service commenced operations in 1965 and currently operates two 12000TD hovercraft on a single route between Ryde and Southsea.

The service operates between Southsea Common on the English mainland and Ryde Transport Interchange on the Isle of Wight: the crossing time of less than 10 minutes makes it the fastest route across The Solent from land to land.[3]

Limited Company
IndustryPassenger transportation
HeadquartersRyde, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom
Area served
Solent, Isle of Wight, Southsea
OwnerBland Group
Number of employees
100 -200
ParentBland Group
Hovercraft at Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK
Solent Flyer at Ryde hovercraft terminal (2018)
Freedom 90 at Ryde (2008)

Current Craft

Hovertravel operate two 12000TDs produced by Griffon Hoverwork called "Solent Flyer" and "Island Flyer". These craft each have 78 seats with the cabin accessible by two doorways from the bow of the craft. The pilot operates from a central wheelhouse.

The twin engine vehicles travel at a speed up to 40 knots 1.5m above the surface.

Ferry Route

Hovertravel operate between the mainland of the United Kingdom from Southsea across the Solent to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. At low tide the hovercraft travels over sand flat at a distance of a mile to reach Ryde's hover port.

1972 accident

On 4 March 1972, Hovertravel's SR-N6 012 capsized off Southsea, with a loss of five lives, including one person missing, presumed drowned. This was the world's first fatal accident involving a commercially operated hovercraft, and the first fatal accident involving a hovercraft in the United Kingdom.[4]

The craft was en route from Ryde to Southsea when it was hit by an unusually large wave. The hovercraft capsized about a quarter-of-a-mile (400 metres) offshore.[5] After all visible survivors had been rescued, the hovercraft was towed ashore at Southsea.[6]


Hovercraft leaving Ryde
Solent Express leaving Ryde
Model Number Name In Service Out Service
SRN6 012 1972
SRN6 GH2014 Sea Hawk 1977 1983
SRN6 025 1968 1980
SRN6 026/GH2012 1966 1981
SRN6 130/GH2013 1965 1980
SRN6 GH2035 Freedom 1974 1982
AP1-88 GH2087 Tenacity 1983 1990
AP1-88 GH2088 Resolution 1983 1987
AP1-88 GH2083 Perseverance 1985 1988
AP1-88 GH2107 Double-O-Seven 1989 2003
AP1-88 GH2114 Freedom 90 1990 2018
AP1-88 GH2108 Courier 1990 2000
AP1-88 GH2124 Idun Viking 1997 2002
AP1-88 GH2132 Island Express 2002 2017
BHT130 GH2142 Solent Express 2007 2011
Griffon 12000TD GH2160 Solent Flyer 2016 Present
Griffon 12000TD GH2161 Island Flyer 2016 Present

In October 2017, the two Griffon craft were taken out of service owing to a number of technical problems including engine failures. The two AP1-88s were taken out of reserve to operate the service in their places.[7] The Griffon craft returned later that month.[8]


Hovertravel's hovercraft have occasionally been chartered to operate temporary services across the Firth of Tay between Carnoustie and St Andrews in connection with major golf tournaments (due to Carnoustie's relative lack of hotel accommodation). Also, the Solent Express was chartered to operate an experimental service across the Firth of Forth (marketed as "Forthfast") between Portobello (Edinburgh) and Kirkcaldy 16–28 July 2007.[9]


  1. ^ "BBC – Hovercraft on the Isle of Wight". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2008.
  2. ^ Magazine, Justin Parkinson BBC News. "What happened to passenger hovercraft?". BBC News. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Hovertravel – Homepage". www.hovertravel.co.uk. Retrieved 13 September 2008.
  4. ^ "HOVERCRAFT ACCIDENT". Hansard 6 March 1972. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Hovercraft Casualty". Hansard 20 December 1972. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  6. ^ "1972, The Hovercraft". Thirty Two Years in the Ambulance Service. Portsmouth and Hampshire (UK). Archived from the original on 22 November 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  7. ^ "Southsea to Ryde hovercraft taken out of service". BBC News. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Southsea to Ryde hovercraft back in use after breakdowns". BBC News. 28 October 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Stagecoach – Fife – forthfast". www.stagecoachbus.com. Archived from the original on 2 October 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2008.

External links

British Hovercraft Corporation AP1-88

The British Hovercraft Corporation AP1-88 is a medium-size hovercraft. In a civil configuration, the hovercraft can seat a maximum of 101 passengers, while as a troop carrier, it can transport up to 90 troops. When operated as a military logistics vehicle, the AP1-88 can carry a pair of Land Rovers, a Bv202 tracked vehicle and trailer unit or up to roughly 10 tons (10,000 kg) of cargo.

The AP1-88 had several advantages over earlier hovercraft in terms of its increased fuel economy and reduced noise output, which is principally due to the decision to power the craft using several diesel engines instead of using gas turbine engines, the latter having been used on earlier craft.

Since the 1980s, a pair of AP1-88-100s have been operated in Britain by Hovertravel on a route from Southsea in Hampshire to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Outside of the United Kingdom, vehicles of the type have also been operated in a various of locations around the world, including Norway, Australia, China, and Taiwan. The AP1-88 has been constructed under licence in Australia and China.

CCGS Penac

CCGH Penac was a Canadian Coast Guard AP1-88/100 Air Cushioned Vehicle or hovercraft and is based at CCG Hovercraft Base Richmond, BC. The primary missions of Penac was used for Search and Rescue off BC.Penac was purchased in the UK in 2004. as a used vessel. Originally named Liv Viking, it was a passenger hovercraft ordered by Hovertravel of Copenhagen and carried the livery for SAS. Liv Viking never entered service as her route was replaced with bridge.Sold back to the United Kingdom, it was purchased by the Government of Canada and converted to be used by the Canadian Coast Guard. The Liv Viking was stripped to its frame (to save paying design fees) and completely rebuilt to Canadian Coast Guard Specifications.

The Penac has been replaced with newer Air Cushion Vehicle CCGS Moytel (ACV) The vessel was taken out of service in the Spring of 2017 and laid-up condition on land at the Canadian Coast Guard Station, Sea Island, British Columbia. It was listed for auction on Government of Canada Surplus website with a 15 August 2018 closing date.

Griffon Hoverwork

Griffon Hoverwork Ltd (GHL) is a British hovercraft designer and manufacturer. It was founded after Griffon Hovercraft Ltd of Southampton, and Hoverwork Ltd of the Isle of Wight, were acquired by the Bland Group in 2008, then merged in 2009. Griffon is now based along the River Itchen in Southampton.

The company supply hovercraft, boats and other specialised marine services to governments, NGOs, and private companies for use in humanitarian, search and rescue, security and commercial roles.

Isle of Wight ferry services

There are currently three different ferry companies that operate vessels carrying passengers and, on certain routes, vehicles across the Solent, the stretch of sea that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland England. These are Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel.


Portsmouth ( (listen)) is a port city in Hampshire, England, with a total population of 205,400 residents. The city of Portsmouth is nicknamed Pompey and is mainly built on Portsea Island, a flat, low-lying island measuring 24 square kilometres (9 sq mi) in area, just off the south-east coast of Hampshire. Portsmouth is the only island city in the United Kingdom, and is the only city whose population density exceeds that of London.Portsmouth is located 70 miles (110 km) south-west of London and 19 miles (31 km) south-east of Southampton. With the surrounding towns of Gosport, Fareham, Havant and Waterlooville, Portsmouth forms the eastern half of the South Hampshire metropolitan area, which includes Southampton and Eastleigh in the western half.

Portsmouth's history can be traced back to Roman times. A significant naval port for centuries, Portsmouth has the world's oldest dry dock. In the sixteenth century, Portsmouth was England's first line of defence during the French invasion of 1545. By the early nineteenth century, the world's first mass production line was set up in Portsmouth Dockyard's Block Mills, making it the most industrialised site in the world and birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Portsmouth was also the most heavily fortified town in the world, and was considered "the world's greatest naval port" at the height of the British Empire throughout Pax Britannica. Defences known as the Palmerston Forts were built around Portsmouth in 1859 in anticipation of another invasion from continental Europe.

In 1926, Portsmouth was officially elevated in status from a town to a city. The motto "Heaven's Light Our Guide", a reference to the city's eight-pointed star and crescent moon emblem, was registered to the City of Portsmouth in 1929. During the Second World War, the city of Portsmouth was bombed extensively in the Portsmouth Blitz, which resulted in the deaths of 930 people. In 1944, Portsmouth was the pivotal embarkation point for the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944. In 1982, a large proportion of the task force dispatched to liberate the Falkland Islands deployed from the city's naval base. Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia left the city to oversee the transfer of Hong Kong in 1997, which marked for many the end of the empire. In 1997, Portsmouth became a Unitary Authority, with Portsmouth City Council gaining powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined, responsibilities previously held by Hampshire County Council.

Portsmouth is one of the world's best known ports. HMNB Portsmouth is considered to be the home of the Royal Navy and is home to two-thirds of the UK's surface fleet. The city is home to some famous ships, including HMS Warrior, the Tudor carrack Mary Rose and Horatio Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory (the world's oldest naval ship still in commission). The former HMS Vernon naval shore establishment has been redeveloped as a retail park known as Gunwharf Quays. Portsmouth is among the few British cities with two cathedrals: the Anglican Cathedral of St Thomas and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Evangelist. The waterfront and Portsmouth Harbour are dominated by the Spinnaker Tower, one of the United Kingdom's tallest structures at 560 feet (170 m). Nearby Southsea is a seaside resort with a pier amusement park and medieval castle.

Portsmouth F.C., the city's professional football club, play their home games at Fratton Park in the Milton area of the city, near Fratton railway station. Portsmouth has several mainline railway stations that connect to Brighton, Cardiff, London Victoria and London Waterloo amongst other lines in southern England. Portsmouth International Port is a commercial cruise ship and ferry port for international destinations. The port is the second busiest in the United Kingdom after Dover, handling around three million passengers a year. The city formerly had its own airport, Portsmouth Airport, until its closure in 1973. The University of Portsmouth enrols 23,000 students and is ranked among the world's best modern universities. Portsmouth is also the birthplace of author Charles Dickens, engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and former Prime Minister James Callaghan.


The Saunders-Roe (later British Hovercraft Corporation) SR.N6 hovercraft (also known as the Winchester class) was essentially a larger version of the earlier SR.N5 series. It incorporated several features that resulted in the type becoming the one of most produced and commercially successful hovercraft designs in the world.

While the SR.N2 and SR.N5s operated in commercial service as trials craft, the SR.N6 has the distinction of being the first production hovercraft to enter commercial service. In comparison to the SR.N5, the SR.N6 was stretched in length, providing more than double the seating capacity. Some models of the craft were stretched further, enabling an even greater capacity.

Experience gained in the development of the SR.N6 has been attributed as heavily contributing towards the design and production of the largest civil hovercraft to be ever produced, the SR.N4. Several major design features of the SR.N6 appeared on both the SR.N4 and further hovercraft designs by Saunders-Roe and its successor, the British Hovercraft Corporation.


Wightlink is a ferry company operating routes between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in southern England.

The core routes are car ferries between Lymington and Yarmouth (40 minutes) and between Portsmouth and Fishbourne (45 minutes). A fast passenger-only catamaran operates between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head, taking 22 minutes, and directly links with the Island Line rail line.

In recent years the firm has been owned by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund, then sold to Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners in 2015, but as of 2019 is owned by Basalt Infrastructure Partners and Fiera Infrastructure Inc. Each of whom own a 50% stake in the firm.

Wightlink's main competitors are Red Funnel, who run passenger catamarans between Southampton – Cowes and vehicle ferries between Southampton – East Cowes, and Hovertravel who operate passenger hovercraft between Southsea and Ryde.

Unitary authorities
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