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Industry Passenger transportation
Founded 1965
Headquarters Southsea, United Kingdom
Area served
Parent Bland Group
Website www.hovertravel.co.uk
Freedom 90 at Ryde

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. 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 hovercraft on a single route between Ryde and Southsea, although it formerly operated also between Ryde and Gosport, and Cowes and Southampton.[3]

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.[4]

1972 accident[edit]

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.[5][6]

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.[6] After all visible survivors had been rescued, the hovercraft was towed ashore at Southsea.[7]

Service suspension[edit]

Hovertravel suspends the timetable when the wind reaches gale force 8 and above. The service was suspended on 18 November 2011 after an incident on 30 October 2011 in which the hovercraft Solent Express suffered a propeller failure.[8] Services resumed with one craft on the afternoon of 21 November 2011.
The service was again suspended after a second incident on 27 June 2015, when during the 21:45 crossing the Freedom 90 Hovercraft experienced a major fault with the port propeller, with the loss of all four propeller blades and one of the three rudder blades.


The current and past fleet:


  • AP1-88 – Freedom 90 (1990– Present)
  • AP1-88 - Island Express (2002 - Present)
  • Griffon 12000TD - Solent Flyer (2016 - Present)
  • Griffon 12000TD - Island Flyer (2016 - Present)


  • SRN6-025 (1968–1980)
  • SRN6-026 (1966)
  • SRN6-130 (1965–1980)
  • Freedom (1974-1982)
  • Sea Hawk (1977–1983)
  • Tenacity (1983–1990)
  • Resolution (1983–1987)
  • Perseverance (1985–1988)
  • Double-O-Seven (1989–2003)
  • Courier (1990–2000)
  • Idun Viking (1997–2002)
  • BHT130 – Solent Express (17 March 2007 – 30 October 2011)



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.[11]


  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 2015-11-09. 
  3. ^ "About Hovertravel". Retrieved 2016-07-10. 
  4. ^ "Hovertravel – Homepage". www.hovertravel.co.uk. Retrieved 13 September 2008. 
  5. ^ http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1972/mar/06/hovercraft-accident |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 6 March 1972. col. 1029–1030. 
  6. ^ a b http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1972/dec/20/hovercraft-casualty |chapter-url= missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 20 December 1972. col. 380W–381W. 
  7. ^ [http://homepage.ntlworld.com/graham.alland/mypage2.htm "1972, The Hovercraft"] Check |url= value (help). Thirty Two Years in the Ambulance Service. Portsmouth and Hampshire (UK). Retrieved 17 September 2009. 
  8. ^ "Hovertravel operations suspended". Maritime and Coastguard Agency. 18 November 2011. 
  9. ^ New Craft Project
  10. ^ http://www.yasamotors.com/application-example-marine-hovercraft/
  11. ^ "Stagecoach – Fife – forthfast". www.stagecoachbus.com. Archived from the original on 2 October 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2008. 

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