Hovercraft on way to patrol border
Justice Department buys craft built by Neoteric
June 12, 2002
By Peter Ciancone
A Terre Haute company's product has made its way to southern
California to help make the border with Mexico safer and more secure.
Neoteric Hovercraft Inc., has sold one of its specialty watercraft
to the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization
Service to be used in the waterways around El Centro, Calif.
Chris Fitzgerald, president of Neoteric, said the INS inquiry
from El Centro was not the first his company had received.
"We've had inquiries from various border patrol people for
quite some time," he said. "This recent thing came up
about three months ago."
The hovercraft will be used in the All-American Canal, an agricultural
channel that separates the United States from Mexico in California's
Imperial Valley, 150 miles east of San Diego, said INS spokesman
The canal moves about 5 million cubic feet of water per minute
from the Colorado River to the farms in the area, and has been
a danger spot for illegal immigrants trying to cross the border
into the United States.
Figueroa said 17 people have drowned in the canal since October,
and more than 50 died last year between the swift-moving water
in the canal and the vast tracts of desert north of the border.
Fitzgerald recently traveled to southern California to train
members of the Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue teams in
the craft's use.
The unique set of circumstances in the area around that part
of California made a hovercraft their best option for patrol and
Hovercraft were chosen by INS because of their capabilities,
Figueroa said. The canal is maintained by the Imperial Valley Water
Authority, which previously had not permitted motor boats in the
canal. Their engines could leak oil and gas into the water, and
their movement makes a wake that erodes the soil composition of
the canal walls.
"The hovercraft can travel up and down the canal at 25-30
miles per hour without creating a wash," Fitzgerald said.
Figueroa said the INS was considering buying more of the craft
to patrol more sections of the canal, which is divided by a series
of locks and drops.
Fitzgerald said the use of hovercraft is growing as emphasis
in homeland security increases.
"First responders worldwide have recognized their value
in performing fast, safe, rescues on swift water, ice, snow and
partially frozen waters when other vehicles cannot," he said. "And
hovercraft are more cost-effective than helicopters." Neoteric
has been building hovercraft since 1975. Other organizations using
Neoteric craft include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Anchorage
International Airport, the Heilongjung River Commission and Huaihe
River Commission in China and safety services throughout the United