A hovercraft would beat the ice problem

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Dear Editor: CBC’s show “22 Minutes” was excellent as usual tonight but Rick Mercer hit home for me with several segments.

My first home was on the base that is now CMR-St. Jean.

I was in Montreal when the Parti Quebecois began talking referendum, and my first ride on a hovercraft was at Expo. The hovercraft Rick used on tonight’s show was a small “sport” model.

However, it begs the question, with the Sir Robert Bond spending much of its time in ice this year, is there a more reliable and economical way to cross the Straits in winter.

A version of northwestern Canada’s ice road is too unpredictable and a fixed link such as the Chunnel will never happen.

So, as you would, it was off to Wikipedia for to get some hovercraft facts.

“The world’s first car-carrying hovercraft was made in 1968, the BHC Mountbatten class (SR.N4) models, each powered by four Bristol Proteus turboshaft engines.

These were both used to operate regular car and passenger carrying services across the English Channel. The first SR.N4 had a capacity of 254 passengers and 30 cars, and a top speed of 83 kn (154 km/h). The Channel crossing took around 30 minutes and was run rather like an airline with flight numbers.

The later SR.N4 Mk.III had a capacity of 418 passengers and 60 cars to the Isle of Wight.

These were later joined by the French-built SEDAM N500 Naviplane with a capacity of 385 passengers and 45 cars.

Only one entered service and was used intermittently for a few years on the cross-channel service. The service ceased in 2000 after 32 years, due to competition with traditional ferries, and the opening of the Channel Tunnel.

There is no mention of use on ice for those larger hovercraft but Mercer did fine in his Parry Sound exploits.

While the Bond can carry 131 cars, or 39 rail cars (it did carry railcars), or 20 trailers and 235 passengers at a maximum 14.5 knots in ice-free travel, we know that this winter it has probably averaged 0.1 knots.

We are told to expect more erratic weather conditions in the future.

Perhaps a mid-sized hovercraft operating more frequently on the Straits could provide better and cheaper service. Rick could be invited for the maiden run.

Neil Robbins, Corner Brook

Organizations: Dear Editor, CBC, Parti Quebecois The Channel

Geographic location: Montreal, Northwestern Canada, English Channel Isle of Wight Parry Sound Corner Brook

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