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ATLAS Hovercraft | Photo © 2015 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

ATLAS Hovercraft

Location Class:
Built: | Abandoned: 2008
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

ATLAS Hovercraft Inc.

Founded in 2005, the vision for Green Cove Springs-based company ATLAS Hovercraft Inc. was to construct commercial hovercraft, also known as an “over the beach” craft, to transport passengers on the St. Johns River between Palatka and Jacksonville and eventually expand to South Florida, mainly between Miami and the Florida Keys. The technology to make hovercrafts viable for military and commercial applications did not exist until the mid-1950s. Since then, hovercrafts have been built worldwide for commercial passenger service and recreation purposes, as well as the military due to their ability to travel over land or water.

ATLAS Hovercraft Inc. was described as an “American-owned, Florida-based corporation engaged in the design and manufacturing of air cushion vehicles more commonly known as hovercraft.” Kurt H. Peterson, CEO and senior hovercraft design engineer of the company, planned on having ATLAS Hovercraft Inc. become the world’s largest hovercraft design and manufacturing company. The craft’s air cushion vessels designed by Peterson were said to possess advanced features that overcome many prior hovercraft shortcomings such as low maneuverability, high maintenance costs, and high noise.

Each vessel was estimated to be between 100-125 feet long and cost approximately $10 million each to construct. They had hoped to get a port up and running in Palatka by Spring 2007. Many engineers, both private and government, got a firsthand look at the construction progress, commenting how at first sight, they believed that no one there had any engineering knowledge considering that the hovercraft was open to the elements rather than a controlled environment.

LCAC 55 maneuvers to enter the well deck
A US Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) maneuvers to enter the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge.

April 2008 Update on the Craft’s Status

In April 2008, Kurt Peterson posted an update on the project on a hovercraft forum which read in part, “The AH-100-P is finally in the home stretch. Good things take time and this build is no exception. However, I can say that what we have learned from building this hovercraft is now being incorporated into the New hovercraft for 2008 [and] 2009. The basic look will remain the same, but the changes are more internal and a function of [the] manufacturing process than [the] overall design.

The crew is smoothing out the exterior for paint while windows and doors are ready for installation. Most of the major system components are in place and there is a lot of wiring and plumbing going on. Working out these details on a “First Craft” is not an easy task! The R&D Department is also busy refining various aspects of the AH-100-P Hovercraft and working on some very interesting new applications.

He went on to say that confidentiality agreements prevent him from giving you too many details in a public forum and did not intend to be evasive. Although Peterson promised a future update that would include photos of the end product, there were none neither officially nor on the forum.

A rendering of what the ATLAS hovercraft was supposed to look like after it was completed.

2011 Unofficial and Final Update

In 2011, a user by the name “HoverCapt” on the MetroJacksonville.com forums claimed they were an ex-ATLAS employee who had been a part of the project from the beginning until around 2 years in. They stated that there had been some misconceptions about the project such as being a danger to manatees which would not be an issue since no part of the craft would be in the water while it’s hovering.

Another misconception was that the company was moving towards becoming the only option to travel up and down the river. Instead, they simply wanted to give people another option which in turn would help decrease traffic on the roadways. The poster also made it clear that it was no secret that they had planned on putting the craft in operation between Miami and the Florida Keys rather than the initially planned St. Johns River due to its size. There was always the possibility of constructing a smaller craft for the river system if there was enough interest from JTA or another company.

Due to lack of funding, the company shut down operations in May 2008 and the hovercraft was abandoned where it now sits to decay. Peterson moved on to found Aqua Terra Hovercraft LLC. Similar to ATLAS, Aqua Terra’s goal was to build the largest and most financially successful hovercraft transportation company in history. The commercial craft design was nearly identical to the ATLAS. Beyond that, there has been no information regarding Aqua Terra’s current status.

DSC 8610
The project was abandoned in 2008 due to a lack of funds. The abandoned NP-3D Orion VX-30 once known as “Bloodhound-357,” can be seen in the background

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David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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