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Merriam Webster defines a hovercraft as: a vehicle that is supported above the surface of land or water by a cushion of air produced by downwardly directed fans.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says the following: A vehicle supported above the surface of land or water by an air cushion, produced by downwardly directed fans, enclosed within a flexible skirt beneath the hull.

The concept was first proposed by John Thornycroft in the 1870s, but a working model was not produced until 1955, when Christopher Cockerell solved the problem of keeping the air cushion from escaping from under the vehicle, and formed Hovercraft Ltd. to manufacture prototypes. Problems with skirt design and engine maintenance have restricted the vehicle's commercial application; today hovercraft are used mainly as ferries.

The Encyclopedia Britannica's definition is unfortunate in that is states that hovecraft are used mainly as ferries. The fact is that hovercraft are used for many different applications.

Hovercraft are a new technology, and they have never been in mainstream use. Practical hovercraft desings have only been around since the 1950's, and some people don't even believe in their existense.

This has been for various reasons. Its inability for precise manoeuvring control and its relatively high maintenance and noise levels compared to the automobile have been sufficiently difficult to overcome to keep the air cushion vehicle at the fringe of modern transport.

The fact that hovercraft technology was classified as secret after World War TWO (see Hovercraft History) also didn't encourage it into the mainstream of vehicle construction companies. And even after it became declassified in the 1960's problems with wear and tear of the rubber skirt, salt intake by the fans and other technical difficulties all contributed to keep the hovercraft and other air cushion vehicles in the domain of specialised vehicles and hobbyists. (See Hovercraft Construction.) The majority of these problems have been overcome with advances in construction and metals that are resistant to salt and rust problems.

Hovercraft work perfectly well on grass, dirt, water, ice and snow. They do have difficulty on steep slopes. They need sufficient thrust to overcome steep slopes.

Hovercraft enthusiasts have not given up their struggle to make this vehicle a popular one, even if only for recreational use and, hovercraft have been widely used by the military (see Military Hovercraft), commercial companies such as boat ferries, and rescue vehicles.