Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hovercraft Souvenir Mail

A hovercraft or air-cushion vehicle (ACV) is a vehicle which can travel over surfaces while supported by a cushion of high pressure air which is ejected against the surface below and contained within a "skirt". ACVs are able to travel over land, ice, and water.

This post considers hovercraft use in Canada from 1972 to 1977, showing souvenir mail from ACVs produced by the following manufacturers:

1. Saunders-Roe Limited
2. Bell Aerospace
3. Hovermarine Transport Ltd.

1. Saunders-Roe Limited

Saunders-Roe Limited (later British Hovercraft Corporation) was a British engineering company located at Columbine Works East Cowes, Isle of Wight.

a) SR.N5

The Saunders-Roe SR.N5 was a medium-sized hovercraft which first flew in 1964. It was the first production-built hovercraft in the world. The Canadian Coast Guard used an SR.N5 for rescue and survey work for 20 years.

Canadian Coast Guard SR.N5-021

Carried on Rescue

The cover below was carried on Vancouver-based Canadian Coast Guard SR.N5 on Rescue 1000, December 1, 1975, involving the fishing vessel "Mercury".

Mailed from Vancouver in February, 1976

First Landing on Passage Island

June 26, 1979

b) SR.N6

The Saunders-Row SR.N6 hovercraft was a larger version of the earlier SR.N5 series. It incorporated several features that resulted in it quickly becoming the most produced and successful hovercraft design in the world. Compared to the SR.N5, the SR.N6 Mk.1 was stretched in length, with over double the seating capacity.

1966 Great Britain commemorative stamp featuring the SR.N6

The SR.N6 was used by the Canadian Coast Guard as well as commercial interests in the Northwest Territories.

i) Canadian Coast Guard Vancouver

The Canadian Coast Guard maintains its hovercraft base at Sea Island near Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, British Columbia.


First Operational Flight

"Carried on SRN6-039 On First Operational Flight" October 4, 1977
Vancouver Airport Mail Facility, October 4, 1977

The SRN6-039 was in service until 1988.

ii) Hoverwork Ltd. Arctic Charter

In July and August 1972. Hoverwork Ltd.'s (now Griffon HoverworkLtd.) hovercraft, SRN6-039 , was chartered to carry out a seismic survey in the Beaufort Sea and the McKenzie Delta.

The card below was carried on the first Canadian flight from Hay River, NWT, (July 5, 1972) to Shingle Point, Yukon, (July 8, 1972).

The card was mailed at Inuvik on July 11, 1972.

iii) Northern Transportation Company Ltd.

Northern Transportation Company Ltd. (NTCL) is an Arctic marine transportation company. The covers below were carried on NTCL Air Cushion Vehicle Division flights in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

First Flight Edmonton

Edmonton, August 3, 1973

First Flight Imperial Oil Tuktoyaktuk

Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., December 15, 1973

First Flight Hay River

Hay River, December 23, 1973

First Flight SR N6-030, Edmonton, August 22, 1974

Hay River to Inuvik

Inuvik, September 25, 1974

2. Bell Aerospace

a) Voyageur Heavy Haul Hovercraft

Bell Aerospace Canada designed the Voyageur Hovercraft to carry a 25-ton payload over Arctic terrain. The Voyageur was first tested in December, 1971.

Voyageur First Trial Run

Grand Bend, Ontario, December 1, 1971


i) Northern Transportation Company Limited

Hay River First Flight

May 22, 1972

Inaugural Flight Toronto to Port Hope

Port Hope, July 29, 1972

First Arctic Flight

Tuktoyaktuk, February 3, 1973

ii) Canadian Coast Guard

Coast Guard Trials, N.W.T.

Norman Wells to Hay River, June 12- 12, 1973
Hay River, June 13, 1973

Grand Bend- Parry Sound First Flight

Parry Sound, January 30, 1974

iii) Agence Maritime Inc.

Grand Bend - Blanc Sablon

Blanc Sablon, November 13, 1974

b) Viking

The Viking was designed to meet the need for a smaller craft than the Voyageur.

The Viking program was eventually scrapped when transmission problems from the twin propeller system proved too expensive to solve.

Goderich-Parry Sound

Parry Sound, June 28, 1974

3. Hovermarine Transport Ltd. : HM2
UK-based Hovermarine manufactured the HM-2 sidewall hovercraft in the 1960s.

The vessel had a cushion like a hovercraft and twin hulls like a catamaran, which made it more resistant to slipping sideways when acted on by air or sea. Over 110 HM.2's were manufactured in the UK and US.

Toryoung Inc. : Lake Ontario Passenger Service

In July, 1974, the first HM 2 passenger service in North America was inaugurated between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto.

The service ended in the fall of 1974 with the failure of the operating company.