Moving Machines: On the Air

<< Back to Robb Report, August 2002

The 21st century has arrived, and science has yet to deliver the personal jet packs that have for so long populated the hackneyed predictions of futurists. However, David Carambat and his Louisiana yacht design firm, Industrial Object, have unveiled something equally ubiquitous to the realms of science fiction: a recreational hovercraft that’s actually enjoyable to pilot. The Grand Touring Hovercraft (GTH), a sleek and sexy two-seater with a streamlined chassis and gullwing doors, bears a stronger resemblance to an exotic sports car than to its clunky, noisy, and unattractive ancestors of the 1970s.  

Once the main engine chugs to life, the driver presses the button that awakens the lift fan, and the GTH rises on a 10-inch cushion of air that enables it to glide over any relatively flat surface—pavement, sand, snow, ice, water—a decided advantage over other recreational vehicles that can roam only on land or sea. “It can take you to places you can fly over, but you can’t get to,” says Carambat. “It’s especially fast on ice and packed snow,” he adds, noting that the prototype was sold earlier this year to a Michigan man who tested the vehicle’s mettle on that state’s frozen winter landscape. “You feel almost detached from the surface,” Carambat says of the driving experience. “You don’t feel every ripple or bump, but you have a strong sense of control. You’re not distracted by noise or wind. It’s a very unique experience.”  

Mastering hovercraft maneuvers, however, does take a little bit of practice. “It’s like a Jet Ski,” Carambat says, “only more slippery.” A few weeks of driver training are required before a GTH (base price $60,000) can be delivered.  

Industrial Object, 985.893.2432, www.industrialobject.com

Illustration by Jean-François Martin
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