Local business Griffon Hoverwork is celebrating the culmination of two years’ hard work as a new 12000TD hovercraft is trialled in the Solent.
Their latest hovercraft, Baien, is one of three commissioned by Oita Prefecture in Japan as part of a £25 million contract drawn up in 2021. The hovercraft will reestablish a vital passenger service between Oita Airport and Oita City, with all three craft scheduled for delivery by January 2024.
The project ranks among Griffon Hoverwork’s largest contracts to date, and the team are looking forward to delivering the finished craft at the start of next year.
Adrian Went, Managing Director at Griffon said:
“Overseas clients continue to come to Griffon for the quality that we deliver. The project has provided opportunities across a range of roles in our business, from graduate engineers, through to supply chain activity, to the complete range of marine workshop skills.”
Griffon’s Chief Pilot Ben Avery is among those helping to put Baien through its paces right here in Hampshire.
He said: “These trials are important because, while Griffon already provides a 12000TD for the Hovertravel service between Southsea in Portsmouth and Ryde on the Isle of Wight, they’ve had to make a few key adjustments for their Japanese customers.
Ben explained: “The craft is 25m long – two metres longer than the standard 12000TD. That extra two metres has been added to give more space inside the cabin, which allows for the Japanese barrier-free access requirements. “It also gives two wheelchair spaces and seating for 80 passengers.
“Because we’ve made the craft a bit longer, we’ve had to look at ways of weight-saving. “One of the ways we’ve done that is by taking weight out of the propeller ducts in the manufacturing process. The steering system is now also a lot more efficient.”
Also crucial to Baien’s future application is the ‘puff port’ installed at the front of the craft, which pilots can use to bleed off pressure.
Ben added: “It’s for very fine manoeuvring, and our customer in Japan has quite a tight space in their boathouse, so it will be used to help them park the craft.”
Adrian Went added “Our team are all very much looking forward to working with this latest esteemed customer and providing them with the latest British developed technology.