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Footnote to the ‘Chinese postcard problem'

Slipstream, United Kingdom
Issue 321, August 2010
by Ken Pemberton

Image Neoteric Hovercraft eliminates bird strike threat The picture (left) on this Chinese postal stationery card raised my interest as I thought the craft was American (with a WS registration) but the aircraft colour scheme suggested it might be an Aeroflot aircraft. I asked Pete Cooper if he had any ideas about the aircraft and he set about getting to the bottom of the query. An aero friend of his checked over 400 of his 1000+ pictures of civil Hercules C-130 aircraft and was almost certain that this was ex-U.S. Navy EC-130Q, which went to NASA as N427A. The photo was taken at Racine Airport in Wisconsin after delivery to the Kenosha Military Museum. So far so good, but when I was checking on the abbreviation for Wisconsin, I found that it is ‘WI’ and not ‘WS’. I contacted the guy who owns the private Racine Airport and sent him a scan of the card and requested information. He very quickly replied, saying that the registration for boats in Wisconsin is, in fact, ‘WS’ and not the correct ‘WI’ for reasons unknown to him. He goes on to tell me that this is a Neoteric hovercraft. He adds:

“…The hovercraft was purchased several years ago from Neoteric. There are several quarries near here that make excellent places for Canadian Geese to spend the night, which is not good because of the close proximity to the airport. We purchased the hovercraft as a means to go into the quarries from land to ice to water and back. If we go into the quarries and run the geese off in the winter, it allows the water hole to freeze over and the problem is now over. We have been using the hovercraft for about 6 years …” (Read the full story.)

I decided to contact Neoteric to see if they had any promotional postcards and to let them know about the Chinese card …

If you recall, in 2007 there were severe floods in the UK and in the August 2008 issue we reported that the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service had ordered an Italian-built Hi Tech International (HTI) hovercraft as a result of one of these craft traveling by road from Italy to help out. It was never understood why this craft traveled from Italy when there were RNLI and other rescue hovercraft much closer to home; the nearest was probably the craft at Burnham-on-Sea … In view of the information received from Neoteric, it seems to me that the deployment of the Italian craft was an advertising stunt!

For several years, Neoteric has been in a battle with HTI who they claim have, since 2001, committed ‘an unrelenting history of offenses, including industrial and economic espionage, theft of technology and trade secrets and intellectual property infringement.” There is a resume of contacts made with HTI listing complaints, etc., which runs to over 50 pages (and that is only a very brief resume of the situation!) What is equally interesting about this situation is that Neoteric claims that the craft built by HTI in Italy are unsafe in that (apart from other issues) there are grave problems such as exploding fans. This particular hazard resulted from HTI’s installation of a 145 hp engine in a craft that is not designed to carry an engine with that power. Neoteric was contacted by HTI for assistance in resolving the problems they created!

Neoteric has 40 years experience in building hovercraft and HTI was established in 2000 as a dealer, not a manufacturer. On their website, HTI reproduced a copy of a letter from Prime Minister Gordon Brown dated 5 October 2007 in which he expresses his thanks for HTI’s help during the floods. Neoteric has written to both Gordon Brown (2 July 2008) and to Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (19 August 2008) expressing their concerns over what they see as a counterfeit hovercraft and the inbuilt dangers. Neoteric’s site doesn’t show replies received from those parties. The website for the Gloucestershire F&R Service lists all their equipment, description and number of fire engines, etc., but the hovercraft isn’t listed. Do they still have it?

The dispute is far from over. It surprised me, many years ago, when I found the Chinese were operating a craft which was similar in design to the HMs. Later, apparent copies of the API-88 were illustrated in Jane’s and craft similar to the SR.N4 (but smaller) have been shown on the Chinese postcards which have been listed in these pages over several issues. Many of the photographs on the Chinese cards have simply been downloaded from websites and plagiarized, but for the Italians (allegedly) to have plagiarized a U.S. hovercraft design was a report I would not have expected from Europe. There would seem to be no understanding of the ‘copyright’ concept in China, nor, apparently, in Italy.

Slipstream is a quarterly newsletter of hovercraft operations around the world, published by The Hovermail Collectors’ Club. Since 1968, the Club
has recorded the history of the hovercraft through Hovermails, postcards and other collectables related to hovercraft. For more information about the Club, or to subscribe to Slipstream, email Ken Pemberton, Founder Member and Editor.

Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc.
1649 Tippecanoe Street Terre Haute, Indiana USA 47807-2394
Telephone: 1-812-234-1120 / 1-800-285-3761 Fax: 877-640-8507

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