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Hovertravel is a ferry company operating from Southsea, Portsmouth to Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK. It is the only passenger hovercraft company currently operating in Britain since Hoverspeed stopped using its craft in favour of catamarans and ceasing all ferry operations in 2005. Hovertravel is now the world's oldest hovercraft operator,[1] and this service is believed to be unique in western Europe.[2] The service commenced operations in 1965 and currently operates two 12000TD hovercraft on a single route between Ryde and Southsea.

Limited Company
IndustryPassenger transportation
HeadquartersRyde, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom
Area served
Solent, Isle of Wight, Southsea
OwnerBland Group
Number of employees
100 -200
ParentBland Group
Solent Flyer at Ryde hovercraft terminal (2018)
Freedom 90 at Ryde (2008)

The service operates between Southsea Common on the English mainland and Ryde Transport Interchange on the Isle of Wight: the crossing time of less than 10 minutes makes it the fastest route across The Solent from land to land.[3]

Current CraftEdit

Hovertravel operate two 12000TDs produced by Griffon Hoverwork called "Solent Flyer" and "Island Flyer". These craft each have 78 seats with the cabin accessible by two doorways from the bow of the craft. The pilot operates from a central wheelhouse.

The twin engine vehicles travel at a speed up to 40 knots 1.5m above the surface.

Ferry RouteEdit

Hovertravel operate between the mainland of the United Kingdom from Southsea across the Solent to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. At low tide the hovercraft travels over sand flat at a distance of a mile to reach Ryde's hover port.

1972 accidentEdit

On 4 March 1972, Hovertravel's SR-N6 012 capsized off Southsea, with a loss of five lives, including one person missing, presumed drowned. This was the world's first fatal accident involving a commercially operated hovercraft, and the first fatal accident involving a hovercraft in the United Kingdom.[4]

The craft was en route from Ryde to Southsea when it was hit by an unusually large wave. The hovercraft capsized about a quarter-of-a-mile (400 metres) offshore.[5] After all visible survivors had been rescued, the hovercraft was towed ashore at Southsea.[6]


Solent Express leaving Ryde
Model Number Name In Service Out Service
SRN6 012 1972
SRN6 GH2014 Sea Hawk 1977 1983
SRN6 025 1968 1980
SRN6 026/GH2012 1966 1981
SRN6 130/GH2013 1965 1980
SRN6 GH2035 Freedom 1974 1982
AP1-88 GH2087 Tenacity 1983 1990
AP1-88 GH2088 Resolution 1983 1987
AP1-88 GH2083 Perseverance 1985 1988
AP1-88 GH2107 Double-O-Seven 1989 2003
AP1-88 GH2114 Freedom 90 1990 2018
AP1-88 GH2108 Courier 1990 2000
AP1-88 GH2124 Idun Viking 1997 2002
AP1-88 GH2132 Island Express 2002 2017
BHT130 GH2142 Solent Express 2007 2011
Griffon 12000TD GH2160 Solent Flyer 2016 Present
Griffon 12000TD GH2161 Island Flyer 2016 Present

In October 2017, the two Griffon craft were taken out of service owing to a number of technical problems including engine failures. The two AP1-88s were taken out of reserve to operate the service in their places.[7] The Griffon craft returned later that month.[8]


Hovertravel's hovercraft have occasionally been chartered to operate temporary services across the Firth of Tay between Carnoustie and St Andrews in connection with major golf tournaments (due to Carnoustie's relative lack of hotel accommodation). Also, the Solent Express was chartered to operate an experimental service across the Firth of Forth (marketed as "Forthfast") between Portobello (Edinburgh) and Kirkcaldy 16–28 July 2007.[9]


  1. ^ "BBC – Hovercraft on the Isle of Wight". Retrieved 25 September 2008.
  2. ^ Magazine, Justin Parkinson BBC News. "What happened to passenger hovercraft?". BBC News. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Hovertravel – Homepage". Retrieved 13 September 2008.
  4. ^ "HOVERCRAFT ACCIDENT". Hansard 6 March 1972. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  5. ^ "Hovercraft Casualty". Hansard 20 December 1972. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  6. ^ "1972, The Hovercraft". Thirty Two Years in the Ambulance Service. Portsmouth and Hampshire (UK). Archived from the original on 22 November 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ "Southsea to Ryde hovercraft taken out of service". BBC News. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Southsea to Ryde hovercraft back in use after breakdowns". BBC News. 28 October 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Stagecoach – Fife – forthfast". Archived from the original on 2 October 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

External linksEdit