The pilot cruises in the direction he wishes to go with little conscious input or training. The vehicle takes cues from his intuitive movements and amplifies them aerodynamically to maintain his level flight path. By applying throttle, he can increase altitude and speed.
An aircraft has six degrees of freedom and control, a hovercraft has two. A hovercraft relies on the surface for lift and stability, enabling simpler control, but keeping it close to the ground. Leave the ground - by even a few feet, and you need full control about all three axis - like any aircraft.
The test-bed is designed as a free-flier and is not limited to low altitude. Its domain is in the air. Its purpose is to develop flight technologies that may broaden access to aviation.
Enormous respect for hovercraft - they have their own art and merit, however we fly on a different science.
It’s taboo in aero-engineering to imply or use the word “flight” if a craft is tethered in any way. This is not flight. (but good to be off the ground again after 14 months of development)
In this outing we are in a small lot, testing the roll response of a new type of control system (the black bands below the ducts). The rocking motion just before setting down is what we were looking for.
On the subsequent run the crew switched roles to insure equal air time.
Feb 13, 2010, the demise of control surfaces. An attempt to counter drift at take-off results in a destabilizing roll. For 14 months since first flight, we were schooled in the limitations of conventional controls. This outing exorcised any lingering delusions of their suitability.
It would take 16 months, 2 inventions, and 41 field tests before we were back in the air. The result of that effort on control would be dramatic.
Our take-away: Fail sooner and never again test on Friday the 13th.