If you like science fiction movies, you’ve probably seen plenty of interesting space ships that hover and float about like magic. But did you know that there are real vehicles that can hover and travel over both water and land?

It’s true! We call these special vehicles hovercrafts. Hovercrafts are also sometimes called air-cushion vehicles or ACVs. Hovercrafts are known as amphibious vehicles. That means they can travel over both land and water.

Although hovercrafts can travel on both land and water, they’re more like airplanes than either boats or cars. They hover in the air on a cushion of pressurized air. Although it might sound like magic, it’s actually pure — and fairly simple — science!

Hovercrafts have engines that power fans. These fans blow air underneath the hovercraft to cause it to lift off of the ground. Depending upon the size of the hovercraft and the power of the engines, hovercrafts can lift from six inches to over seven feet into the air.

To help hovercraft engines work most efficiently, hovercrafts have skirts made of fabric surrounding their bases. These skirts help to keep the pressurized air from escaping.

To move, hovercrafts also need engine power to produce an air current that will push it forward. Some hovercrafts use two separate engines: one for thrust (forward motion), and one to create the pressurized air cushion. Other hovercrafts have one larger engine that produces a single air stream that is then split between thrust and cushion as needed.

Today, hovercrafts are used in many parts of the world for a variety of reasons. Because of their amphibious nature, hovercrafts are often used by military organizations to transport people and equipment over rough terrain. They can also be used to transport large groups of people across bodies of water rather than using boats.

The scientific principles behind hovercrafts were first demonstrated by Sir Christopher Cockerell in 1955. He built a crude object out of a cat food can, a coffee can, and some kitchen scales. He also came up with the name “hovercraft.”

41 Join the Discussion

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    • That’s OK, Rahul! We REALLY appreciate how you like to guess what the next Wonder might be about…even if you’re not always 100% correct, we think you ROCK! :-)

  1. No! :( I was wrong. Today’s wonder of the day is not about reading. However, I loved today’s wonder! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about Astronauts or about the planets.

    I won’t be leaving another comment on Wonderopolis until Saturday, May 26, 2012.

    Goodbye, Wonderopolis until Saturday, May 26, 2012! :)


    • That’s an AWESOME guess, TJ! We hope you have a WONDERful week at school and learn MANY new, cool, interesting things! You are a SUPER Wonder Friend and we really like your weekend comments…THANKS for sharing them with us! :-)

    • Hello, Levi! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day® and learning some awesome new things about hover crafts with us! We think that’s WONDERful! :-)

    • What a SUPER comment, Grace! We agree with you…it DOES look like fun! Hovercrafts have powerful engines that help create a cushion of air for the vehicle to move around on! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder! :-)

    • We’re not sure, Madyson, but we think it’s because they “hover” over the ground and water and also they’re “crafts” (vehicles). We appreciate your comment and THANKS for helping us WONDER more about hovercrafts today! :-)

  2. I think hovercrafts are cool, but my wonderopolis app for my iPod doesn’t show today’s yet about the hovercraft. It is still about the kaleidoscope.

    • Hovercrafts ARE cool, Mr. A., we agree! We’re sorry your app doesn’t show today’s Wonder yet. We bet it will pop up very soon! Thanks for letting us know, and THANK you for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • We think a future Wonder about the Loch Ness Monster sounds like a WONDERful idea, Rithik! Thanks so much for suggesting it! We hope you had as much FUN as we did learning about hovercrafts in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • That sounds like a fun invention idea, “Smile!” We’re glad you stopped by this Wonder of the Day® about hovercrafts and left us a comment to let us know you were here…THANKS SO MUCH! :-)

    • What a great question, Wonder Friend B! We can’t predict the future, but we’re very proud of you for thinking about technology and hovercrafts– together they could do great things! Keep up the SUPER work! :)

  3. I definitely will! I’m currently doing a science project on Hovercrafts and how they work and this is a GREAT wonder to teach me about it!
    ~Wonder Friend “B”

    • That’s awesome news, Wonder Friend B! We are so glad that you learned something new from our hovercraft Wonder… we bet your science project is going to be out-of-this-world amazing! :)

    • WOW, Wonder Friend B! That sounds like an impressive hovercraft! We want you to be safe when you’re building your very own hovercraft! How interesting that the first hovercraft was made out of only a few common things:

      “The scientific principles behind hovercrafts were first demonstrated by Sir Christopher Cockerell in 1955. He built a crude object out of a cat food can, a coffee can and some kitchen scales. He also came up with the name “hovercraft.” ” :)

  4. I don’t get this wonder. Do you guys? Could you explain this wonder to me? If you could, that would be great!! ;)

    • Absolutely, Kyle! A hovercraft is a vehicle, kind of like a boat, but it can also move across land. It uses high-powered fans to lift it up, so that it can glide across water and land. Cool, huh? Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

    • We agree, it is hard to believe, Brooke! Yet, powerful fans can do the job. Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

    • Great question, Jason! We’re not sure. Maybe it has something to do with the position of the giant fans on the hovercraft? What do you think? Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

    • Thanks for summarizing an answer to today’s Wonder, Sian Pi! We’re so GLAD to have you WONDER with us everyday! You ROCK! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How does a hovercraft work?
  • What is an amphibious vehicle?
  • Who came up with the name “hovercraft”?


Wonder Gallery

hovercraft_shutterstock_1789287Hovercraft595_2 custom595 customVimeo Video

Try It Out

What kind of adventure would you go on if you had a hovercraft? That’s what we want to know today!

Did today’s Wonder of the Day have you floating on Cloud 9? Keep the learning going by exploring the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Have you ever seen a hovercraft in action? No? What are you waiting for? Get to a computer right away! Jump online and check out these cool hovercraft pictures and videos. What do you think? Wouldn’t it be so much fun to ride on a hovercraft?
  • Even though hovercrafts are often used by military organizations, you might be seeing them somewhere else sometime soon. Where? Would you believe hovercrafts could be coming to…golf courses? Maybe! Professional golfer Bubba Watson recently replaced his traditional golf cart with a hovercraft. We guess that might make it easier to travel over and around those water hazards! Click on the link above to read more about Bubba’s hovercraft adventures on the golf course!
  • Up for a challenge? Tell us what kind of adventure you’d go on if you had a hovercraft! That’s what we want to know today! Your hovercraft can be a real hovercraft that exists today, or you can make up your own hovercraft of the future that can do whatever you want it to do. Your imagination is the only limit, and we know that Wonder Friends have limitless imaginations! Write a story — and draw a picture of your hovercraft, too, if you want — about an adventure you would go on in a hovercraft. How does your hovercraft help you on your trip? What bodies of water do you cross? Can your hovercraft travel to outer space? When you’re finished with your story, share it with a friend or family member. If you want to share your story and/or your picture of your hovercraft with your Wonder Friends, you can always post on Facebook, too. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Still Wondering

Check out National Geographic Xpeditions’ “On the Road Again: Moving People, Products, and Ideas” lesson to learn to identify modes of transportation and communication for moving people, products, and ideas from place to place.


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