UH 16P Hovercraft

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Project by Jim Jakosh posted 12-06-2009 08:30 PM 6999 views 7 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a hovercraft I built from the plans from Universal Hovercraft for a 15’ hovercraft. I had a girl in Engineering expand it on CADAM to make it 12” longer and 6” wider. Then she did many development views to get the ribs the right length for it to look right. Anyway, it was big wood project with pine and marine plywood and West System Epoxy. I flew it for 10 years before selling it. It started out with a Rotax 503 2 cyl engine and then got a Subaru 1800 4 Cyl engine.

It starts off with a frame of very long 3/4” square stringers screwed and glued to the ribs held in position on the 2×6 fixture. Then it is “skinned” with 1/4” mahogany plywood on the bottom and 5/32” mahogany plywood on the sides and top. There were round wood forms made to consturct the lift fan duct up front and the cavity between them was filled with 2-part liquid styrofoam.
The props were rough made by Bob Windt at UH while I waited. He had pine 1×6’s stacked up and epoxyed together. Then he draws a line down the sides and runs them through the band saw and they are really close to being done. I had to finish sand them and fiberglass the outer surface and balance them
The drive pulley on the fan was made from hard maple and I had to turn it in the lathe at Steelcase because it was too big for my lathe. The elevator and rudders were aluminum wrapped over cedar airfoils.
. I used a thinned mixture West System epoxy over the entire surface before painting it. The nice thing about West System is that it penetrates the wood about 1/32” so it makes the ultimate wood joint.

I had made a plywood template for the engine mount before actually making the steel one.

Sewing the neoprene coated nylon skirt was a big job and the repairs to it were part of the reason I sold it. It took a beating.


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

23 comments so far

View Rj's profile


1047 posts in 3629 days

#1 posted 12-06-2009 08:48 PM

Wow wow Very Cool Jim ! What a process to build this .It must be very rewarding to drive it after all the work you put into it.

-- Rj's Woodworks,San Jose & Weed Ca,

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20482 posts in 3104 days

#2 posted 12-06-2009 09:23 PM

It was fun for 10 years but I’m getting too old to crawl under and sew the skirt along a river or lake anymore.
This project got me my first acetelene torch to weld up the rear guard made from 1/2” conduit. It was quite an experience. I have cut up things in the fan, swallowed a nut in the first engine, burned a hole in the deck when the exhaust pipe broke and punched a big hole in the bottom when I landed on a short post when the throttle stuck coming in off Lake Michigan . Once I took out my wife’s clothelines when I ran it through the back yard in the snow. I forgot about the lines on the north side of the house. I cut all 4 of them and hardly knew it.


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View OhValleyWoodandWool's profile


970 posts in 3119 days

#3 posted 12-06-2009 11:35 PM


-- "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure." Mark Twain

View WoodTookSoLong's profile


30 posts in 3147 days

#4 posted 12-06-2009 11:47 PM

That rocks! Nice job! That’s some serious construction. And it works in the snow too!

-- Ben

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3463 days

#5 posted 12-07-2009 05:57 AM

OH MY GOD!!! That is freakin awesome. Wood everything! Higgins, as in Higgins boats, would be proud. Great work, BTKS

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View RexMcKinnon's profile


2593 posts in 3194 days

#6 posted 12-07-2009 06:11 PM

I would love to try somehting like that. Must be one hellava ride.

-- If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

View COPPERHEAD's profile


21 posts in 3105 days

#7 posted 12-07-2009 07:15 PM

very very cool!!! when did you build this in the 70 s and do you still have it ?


View charlie48's profile


248 posts in 3168 days

#8 posted 12-07-2009 07:20 PM

Thats just way cool !!!!

-- Charlie............Only time will tell if it was time well spent.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20482 posts in 3104 days

#9 posted 12-07-2009 08:02 PM

Hi Copperhead. I finished it in 1987 and sold it in 1997. It was fun to fly. Without a rudder in the water you had to sllide turn it especially a tight turn. It would spin full 360’s at top speed. That was a rush. We took it up and down the small coffer dams in downtown Grand Rapids a couple of times. That brought out a lot of lookers. We took a lot of people for rides at the hover rallies in Indianapolis, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. My mother loved to spin around in it on the Fox River in Aurora,Il.
One time when when it was fairly new I had my daughter and a friend in the hover on the Grand River by Ada, Mi. It had a zipper in the back of the skirt so you cold clean out debris and snow etc that might get blown in by the lift fan. Well I just did a 360 spin and speeded up to do another and the zipper in the back opened up and we lost all lift and put the hover halfway under water. We managed to get it started and motor boat to shore. It has 2 bilge pumps in it for draining the hull. I have a hundred stories- too many to tell here. Look up the Hoverclub of America and see when and where they have a rally near you. You can most likely get a ride with one of the guys there

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Rustic's profile


3253 posts in 3595 days

#10 posted 12-09-2009 11:26 PM

Very nice Jim

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View John A Maiani's profile

John A Maiani

5 posts in 2312 days

#11 posted 01-26-2012 04:17 AM

Jim: I’m building a 15-P hovercraft and want to make it so it has side by side seating.I was wondering how widening yours by 6 inches affected your lift duct and fan.I have a 13hp briggs for a lift engine weighing 77 lbs with a 26-20 fan and a 23hp briggs vanguard weighing 87 lbs with a 54 in prop.John

-- John,Perrysburg Ohio,

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20482 posts in 3104 days

#12 posted 01-27-2012 07:04 AM

Hi John. I had enough room for side by side seating and the 10Hp B&S engine had plenty of lift. I used a 26-20 four blade ducted lift fan and a 54 ” 2- blade thrust fan with a cage and no duct. The 52 HP Rotax thrust engine weighed 52 lbs. When I changed to a 1800 Subaru engine, I moved the engine as far forward as I could, but it was still a little tail heavy and added to more skirt wear on sand and hard surfaces. The guy that bought mine moved the battery up to the front of the nose for better weight distribution.

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View John A Maiani's profile

John A Maiani

5 posts in 2312 days

#13 posted 01-27-2012 01:07 PM

Jim:I;m interested how making the craft 6 in wider affected where you positioned your lift duct and skirt attachements in the duct.I;m interested in your modified plans.I have the UH-15 and 19-P plans as well.In fact i own plans for about 10 of universals crafts.Yes i belong to the hovercraft club and their group on facebook.Arizona sounds good right about now LOL.I had a 10×12 barn shed with a loft and recently had it enlarged to 10×19ft.I;m still debating which craft to build at the moment.I have a set of Old universal plans of their Uh-14 (Cobra) from popular mechanics from the late 70’s as well.I only have 10ft of space in front of my shed and then theres a deck.A 15-P would make the turn just fine when pulling it out.If i went with the cobra which is 7×14 i;d have to lift it up and turn it to make the clearance.JohnM

-- John,Perrysburg Ohio,

View mafe's profile


11725 posts in 3088 days

#14 posted 06-20-2012 12:04 PM

You are a star.
I am amazed, never seen this project before, just took a tour in your wonderful projects.
A Hovercraft!
What a great build, and then to be able to fly it after.
A really late congrat.
Best thoughts your friend,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View John A Maiani's profile

John A Maiani

5 posts in 2312 days

#15 posted 06-21-2012 04:25 PM

Jim I haven’t posted any projects to send you a direct message.I haven’t started my build.I’ve been enlarging my 10×12 barn shed to a 10×19 one.I still need to do some wiring and start building in July.I’m very interested in your modified plans.I already purchased the engines and a finished prop and lift fan from universal hovercraft.I plan on using sassafras wood for the ribs and 1/8 hydrotek marine ply for the skin,John 419-661-8432

-- John,Perrysburg Ohio,

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