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NAME

PRINCESS MARGARET (SR.N4)

CLASS

HOVERCRAFT

LAUNCHED

FEBRUARY 4th 1968

BUILT

BRITISH HOVERCRAFT CORP / COWES / ISLE OF WHITE / BRITAIN

WEIGHT

200 TONS

LENGTH

130 FEET

WIDTH

80 FEET

SPEED

60 KNOTS

PROPELLERS

4 - 21 FEET DIAMETER

ENGINES

4 - GAS TURBINES - 15,200 HP


There were six hovercraft in this Mountbatten class built for the British company Seaspeed. They were introduced to provide a fast service across the world’s busiest sea-lane, the English Channel. The other five craft were Princess Anne, Swift, Sure, Sir Christopher and Prince of Wales. The design of these craft evolved after a British radio engineer ‘Christopher Cockrell’ began experiments in the 1950s with ships that used air between their hull and the water in an attempt to obtain higher speeds. These tests soon led to a craft that hovered above the water. After Cockrell produced a working model, he began contacting potential investors including the British Navy. The British Government was so impressed by the design, they placed it on a secrets list. The National Research & Development Corporation then contracted the Isle of Wight aircraft builders Saunders-Roe to build the first full scale craft.

Princess Margaret

Tests on the first of these craft over land and sea began in 1959. A skirt was developed over the next few years that fitted around the base to give a higher cushion of air. This meant that instead of only being capable of traveling over 6 - 9 inch obstacles; it could then take on obstacles almost as high as the skirt. The first passenger craft entered service in 1962 between Eastney beach near Portsmouth and Ryde/Isle of Wight. That craft was capable of carrying 59 passengers at speeds over 40 knots. As the early small hovercraft suffered problems with their skirts, construction of the new large Mountbatten class had to be delayed until stronger/ higher skirts could be designed.

Princess Anne

Princess Margaret was the prototype of the Mountbatten class hovercraft. This incredible looking machine, the first of six craft that will probably never be equaled in size, began her trials early in 1968. These craft are fitted with ten feet high skirts, have four gas turbine engines that power the fans for lift and drive the propellers, can carry 254 passengers and 30 cars. Their 21-feet in diameter aviation propellers, the largest in the world, give the Mountbatten class a top speed of around 80 knots.

Princess Margaret entered service between Dover/England and Boulogne/France August 1st 1968. The arrival of this craft cut the English Channel crossing to less than half an hour. The hovercraft Princess Margaret and Princess Anne were lengthened 55 feet in 1976 allowing them to carry up to 424 passengers and 54 cars. The three unaltered craft were taken out of service in 1991 to be sold or used for spares. Princess Anne crossed the 23 miles between Calais and Dover September 14th 1995 in 22 minutes, setting a record that is unlikely to be surpassed. Princess Margaret and Princess Anne continued to provide an alternating service across the English Channel until they were retired October 1st 2000. These two modified craft will probably be the largest ever built. They are now laid up at the Hovercraft Museum in Lee on Solent near Portsmouth/England.

Large Image of Princess Margaret (SR.N4) on the beach at Calais.

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