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The world's first (modern) hovercraft
the Saunders-Roe SR-N1

other Saunders-Roe/BHC hovercraftsee this page for other Saunders-Roe/BHC hovercraft.

In 1958, the National Research and Development Corporation awarded Saunders-Roe a contract to build the first full sized hovercraft - the SR-N1 (Saunders-Roe - Nautical One). On the 11th June 1959, the SR-N1 was launched and, only 5 weeks later, the SR-N1 became the first hovercraft to cross the English Channel from Calais to Dover.

Cecil Hugh Latimer-Needham was the person who had the idea of using a skirt to keep the air cushion under the vehicle. In October 1961, Latimer-Needham sold his skirt patents to Westland Aircraft.

(Click on an image to get a larger version)

saunders roe srn1 hovercraft

SR-N1 in its original configuration

Launched 11th June 1959

The SR-N1 in its original configuration - saucer shape, obvious air clearance and no jet engine behind the central air intake.

  • Length 31 ft 5 in
  • Beam 25 ft
  • Speed - 35 kts
  • 435 hp Alvis Leonide IC aero engine

SR-N1 under construction at the Saunders Roe Cowes factoryThe SR-N1 under construction at the Saunders Roe Cowes factory

SR-N1 being lifted for its trip across the English channelThe SR-N1 being lifted for its trip across the English channel

SRN1 hovercraft - cross channelJuly 25th 1959 - after the cross English Channel trip

Drawings of the SR-N1Drawings of the SR-N1 - note the shaped bow as fitted after the cross channel trip

Drawings of the SR-N1

saunders roe srn-1 hovercraftThe world's first full-size hovercraft, built by Saunders-Roe at their East Cowes site shown here modified at Hovershow '66 - 18th June 1966 with the separate propulsion engine.

SR-N1 hovercraft at seaA late SR-N1 picture showing the Rolls Royce Viper jet engine for propulsion, skirt and the pointed bow. With the Viper engine, 50 kts were achieved.

SRN1 hovercraft A picture showing the SR-N1 fitted with a deep skirt coming ashore at Lee-on-Solent 1964

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