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Moncton rescue crews test new hovercraft

CBC News, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
3 October 2012

Moncton Fire Department hovercraft pilot training Search and rescue officials practised using a new hovercraft in Moncton on Tuesday. (CBC News photo)
Thirteen Moncton firefighters were learning to navigate the city’s new $80,000 hovercraft on Tuesday, which was purchased to help rescue people from some of the region’s toughest spots. The emergency rescue response team and instructors were on the McLaughlin reservoir on Tuesday, using the new hovercraft.

Fire Chief Eric Arsenault said the Petitcodiac River has always posed problems for rescue crews in the region. Those problems have only intensified after the gates of the Petitcodiac River were opened.

“We've now discovered that we have these huge mud flats, and it was felt that the hovercraft would be a very versatile, unique tool that could meet those needs,” he said.

The fire chief said it will be a unique tool because of its ability to travel on mud, ice, water as well as firm ground. He said the tides of the Petitcodiac have always made docking a boat in the river difficult.

Arsenault said he hopes trainees will have enough practice hours under their belt to start using Hover One as a rescue vehicle by next month. Moncton council approved the purchase of a Neoteric Hovertrek 6 hovercraft in July.

[Neoteric President] Christopher Fitzgerald came to Moncton from Terra Haute, Indiana, to help train the Moncton fire and rescue officials. Fitzgerald has piloted hovercrafts for almost 50 years; he calls them the “poor man's helicopter.”

“It'll do many of the same sorts of things, but with much greater safety,” he said, “So if you're dealing with very thin ice or dealing with mud flats as we are here, a helicopter would be hard put to put down on the mud flat.”

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