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Vortex Services (Hovercraft) Ltd 

Vortex Service was founded in 2005 with the single aim of ‘producing hovercraft to meet the needs of the client’. We pride ourselves on listening to what a client thinks they want and then offering a range of solutions to meet their needs.   The founder of the company Mr K Smallwood, was a lecturer / teacher in Product Design and Design Engineering for more than 30 years. He has been involved with hovercraft design and manufacture since 1974; there are very few people in Europe with as much experience in producing performance, recreational or light commercial hovercraft.  

Keith Smallwood is also Chairman of the Design and Construction regulatory body for  UK and European Racing Craft. He was also instrumental in the supply of technical support to the MCA during the work on writing the Hovercraft Code of Practice.

Vortex Services are also active members of HMA  (Hovercraft Manufacturers Association) who supported the MCA in their work. 

There are 3 full time members of staff on the factory floor and a further 2 part time staff employed at critical stages in the production process. We also have a Company Secretary and Accountant.

In 2012 Vortex Services moved to a new purpose built factory so that it would have the manufacturing space to produce the 7m long Vortex 7 craft as well as creating a production line for our smaller craft.   Our performance racing craft have won every major championship in the UK, Europe and the World.

Our craft have won the British F1 Championship for the past 7 years and prior to retiring from the World racing scene, K Smallwood has been double World Champion, the last time in  2010. In July 2016 at the World Championship Meeting, Vortex craft took 8 of the 21 podium places, taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th  in one formula.  

Our leisure craft are exported all over the World and our light commercial craft (hovercraft with an un laden weight of less than 1000kg) have been used as Taxis (Holland), Search and Rescue (Canada), Hovercraft Experience (France), Ice Rescue (northern Sweden), Aid Agencies  (Madagascar) and Sea Survey work (UK & Sudan).
                     
Product Range 

Vortex Services produce a wide range of craft that help us to meet the needs of our clients.

Vortex Storm

The Storm is an entry level, single seat craft used as a training and corporate entertainment hovercraft. Engines from 30 – 80hp have been used in this craft.  

Vortex Raptor            

The Raptor is a single seat high performance racing craft which has many F3, F50 and FS titles to its name. Engines from 50 – 130hp have been used in this craft.  

Vortex Predator   

The Predator is at the pinnacle of hovercraft racing technology, this F1 craft has been the most successful Europe racing craft for the past 9 years, and is unsurpassed in its collection of trophies and awards. Engine from 120 – 210hp have been used in this craft.  

Vortex Sirocco  

This new craft for 2016, is a twin engined, 2 seat leisure craft that has been very well received in the market place. This craft uses a 13hp engine for lift and a 35hp engine for thrust.  

Vortex Mistral                     

A real work horse craft, and the mainstay of our commercial activities. This 4 / 5 seat craft is powered by an 80hp Toyota engine or a 120hp turbo version for operation in difficult conditions. This is the updated version of the successful Vortex 3, 4 & 5.  

Vortex 7+                        

This large craft has the size and power to operate in a wide range of environments, doing a wide range of varied tasks. 750kg payload and large deck area makes it ideal as a transport craft moving aid to remote regions or as a medical evac craft able to carry 2 stretchers and medical staff. Twin engines (Toyota) are used on this craft; 45hp for lift and an 80hp for thrust, 120hp turbo version is available for operation in difficult conditions. 
 
Hull construction  

All our hulls are made to a very high standard using high quality, high specification materials, whether it be constructing our entry level Storm craft or a World Championship winning F1 race craft, the care taken is the same.   Full composite construction, most areas are made up of a 3 layer system, 300grm CSM (chopped strand matt), 265grm Diolen (hybrid woven cloth) 300grm CSM. Polyester resin is used making repairs in the field easy. Addition layers of Kevlar (255grm) are sandwiched to provide additional support in high stress areas, ie engine mounting points and load mount fixings. Foam cores also increase panel stiffness in non stress areas.

Underneath, the floor has an additional layer of 12mm end grain balsa wood (as used in power boat construction) this produces a very hard wearing, puncture resistant floor surface (not on race craft).6 off HDPE (high density polyethylene) landing pads are bolted to the floor, these are sacrificial items and are easily replaced at major service intervals. These landing pads enable the craft to operate on strong abrasion surfaces such as airport runways

Unlike many other hovercraft, any part of our leisure & commercial craft can be walked on, even the rear duct. The only part that is not a stress item is the windscreen!!The inside floor of the craft has built in load stress integral mouldings, meaning that heavy items like pumps and engines are directly mounted to these mouldings and not just attached to the floor of the craft.          

Skirt system   ·        

The skirt system that we use on our commercial craft is of the industry standard loop and segment skirt. · This type of skirt uses a loop (or bag) that is fitted to the top of the hull and to the underneath lower edge of the planing surface. · To this loop is attached individual skirt segments (sometimes called fingers). There are 80+ of these small segments, and it is the lower tip of these that supports the craft when on lift.  These segments are bolted to the loop using 3 nylon bolts, and are fastened to the lower part of the loop using plastic cable ties. ·        

There are many advantage of this skirt type

 1.      Stability, as the segments are small the amount the segment can collapse is small. Craft with full height segments are much more prone to the side of the craft ‘dipping down’ as the craft operates. Also the loop, which is pressurised to 25% higher than the segment pressure, also aids stability.

2.      The loss of a single full height segment can dramatically affect the way the craft performs; you would need to loose 4 or 5 of our smaller segments to have the same drop in performance.

3.      The height of our segments are the same as the hover height, so obstacle clearance is not affected.

4.      With all the lift air being channeled around the loop, the space within the hull normally used as the air feed with other skirt systems, can now be dedicated to buoyancy and hull strength.