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Ceremony marks 50-year anniversary of Wirral's hovercraft experiment
Wirral’s place in transport history was commemorated this week when two mayors shook hands in front of New Brighton’s Fort Perch Rock.
New Brighton RNLI’s hovercraft made a symbolic appearance as Cllr Gerry Ellis from Wirral and Rhyl’s Cllr Bill Tasker marked the 50th anniversary of the first passenger-carrying hovercraft to enter service from Moreton to the Welsh seaside resort.
In the summer of 1962 the Vickers VA-3craft regularly carried passengers along the North Wales and Wirral coasts.
The experimental run, a joint venture between British United Airways, Vickers Armstrong and BP which only lasted one summer season, was set up to prove the viability of the hovercraft and to study costs.
It eventually laid the foundations for the giant machines that crossed the English Channel from 1970 to 2000.
Powered by four 400hp gas turbine engines the early hovercraft cruised at 60 knots for the 19 mile journey across the Dee estuary. It carried 24 passengers.
The two mayors were shown a special exhibition of Wirral’s hovercraft connection at Fort Perch Rock by curator Doug Darroch.
But members of Wallasey’s Civic and Historical Society expressed disappointment that they had not been notified about the ceremony.
Historian Father Leon Ostaszewski said: “It’s a pity we knew nothing about it; we would have liked to mark the occasion by being present at the ceremony.
“There was a Wirral History Day at Birkenhead town hall earlier this year and Wallasey’s history stand included a special display commemorating that first hovercraft service between the town and Rhyl.”
The hovercraft exhibition is open to the public at Fort Perch Rock until the end of September.