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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Hovercraft 'fly' to the rescue
The six-seater craft will be tested in different conditions
A new hovercraft lifeboat is to go on trial at five different stations around the UK coast.

The 25ft craft is currently being put into use for two weeks at Morecambe Bay in Lancashire.

The tests will decide if hovercraft have a practical use for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Morecambe promenade
Morecambe has sand and mud flats
The other chosen locations for the Griffon 450TD craft are Hunstanton in Norfolk, Flint in Flintshire, West Kirby in Merseyside and Southend in Essex.

The locations have been selected because of the number of incidents crews deal with and the extensive sand or mud flats which inhibit their response in an emergency.

Mud rescues in particular can be very dangerous and slow to execute.

A hovercraft, however, can reach the casualty very quickly.

Volunteers trained

Senior design engineer Tony Stankus said: "The hovercraft's limitations will be tested.

"These include its carrying capacity, an inability to work on porous surfaces and a weather restriction to a wind speed of less than 25 knots and wave height of less than two feet."

A member of the project team will be taking the craft to each location.

Selected lifeboat volunteers will be trained to "fly" the craft and carry out a series of trials.

Once all the tests are complete, the RNLI will decide whether or not to include hovercraft in its fleet of traditional lifeboats.

See also:

28 Jun 01 | UK
New lifeboat in sea trials
08 Mar 99 | UK
Changing tides at the RNLI
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