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James Walker

James Walker

Amphibious Vehicles Operator
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., USA

Rescue Hovercraft Pilot

“It’s flying; it’s not a boat, it’s not a jet ski. Hovercraft are unique and you get a much better perspective in knowing what you’re dealing with when you know it from the ground up.”

"The more information you have gives you less chance of breaking it,
if you know what you're doing."

As self-proclaimed outdoors lovers, James Walker and Brian Zwemer of Oak Brook, Illinois did not have a hard time warming up to the idea of hovercraft training. As employees of Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., the two men are quite accustomed to operating various types of heavy machinery.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock is the largest provider of dredging services in the USA, specializing in waterway and harbor maintenance by removing accumulated material. Additionally, the company restores eroded beaches, rehabilitates damaged wetlands and other aquatic habitats, and deepens existing harbors or builds new ones. Great Lakes' dredging fleet is comprised of twenty cutter suction dredges, eight hopper dredges, five bucket dredges, two drill boats, a fleet of hydraulic loaders, barges, booster pumps, and state-of-the-art survey vessels, as well as dozens of other specialized support vessels and land equipment.

One of the company's newest acquisitions to its impressive fleet is none other than a hovercraft, and prior to their flight training with HTC, the notion of flying a hovercraft was an entirely new concept for the two men. Not only were they open to the training, they each recognized the importance of the education and skills they would gain during their time at Hovercraft Training Centers. According to Walker, their line of work is all about "safety, safety and safety."

In fact, Great Lakes' highest priority is the safety of its employees, with the company promoting a culture of safety and commitment to training, awareness and the "mutual responsibility for the wellbeing of fellow workers." See www.gldd.com

When asked whether or not he thought flying a hovercraft would be easy, James Walker replied:

"I could say yes, but driving a boat survey line and driving a CRAB are two different worlds ... So I don't know how [hovercraft flying] is going to work. I just don't know. But I'm very interested and open about it." Brian Zwemer, on the other hand, was slightly more confident going into his training.

"I'm pretty good at driving different things. I don't think I'll have a problem with it," he admitted, with confidence.

So how did the training go for Walker and Zwemer? Each man left his training session at HTC with not only an increased enthusiasm for hovercraft in general, but a new appreciation for the specific skills and instruction needed to properly - and SAFELY - fly a hovercraft.

"I like the whole physics behind it," Walker explained. "It's more than just jumping and hitting a throttle. It's flying; it's not a boat, it's not a jet ski. It's a different type of mechanics and a different way of thinking. Hovercraft are unique and you get a much better perspective in knowing what you're dealing with when you know it from the ground up. The more information you have gives you less chance of breaking it if you know what you're doing."

Zwemer concurred, admitting that he felt much more in control after having received his training. As for whether or not he would have been able to figure things out on his own, Brian had a clear response:

"It would require many hours of work and a lot of YouTube videos!"

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Meet our Graduates

A select group of commercial hovercraft pilots graduates from 2000 to the present day …

Train with the Best

HTC training pilots have instructed light hovercraft flight and maintenance since 1976 …

Where it all Began

Since 1960, a team of Australian engineers have devoted their lives to hovercraft development and flight training …

HOVERCRAFT TRAINING CENTERS Make no mistake: A hovercraft is a flying machine. Floating nine inches above the surface, it requires a skilled pilot at the controls. And for those who are trained by HTC pilots, the most experienced in the industry, the result is a pilot capable of capitalizing on the hovercraft's true potential, yielding an array of advantages for recreational, rescue, military and commercial applications.
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