How a hovercraft will transform safety on our lake

A hovercraft provides the capability for emergency rescue teams to safely meet the extreme transitional surface challenges of land, water and ice. It gives emergency rescue crews the ability to reach victims in an emergency situation regardless of their location and the conditions of the lake and terrain.

Lake Winnipesaukee currently does not have a hovercraft available. There is a single airboat located in Tuftonborough. The addition of a single hovercraft is paramount to improve the ability to rescue victims.

So why don’t all rescue teams have access to these important safety vehicles? It's simply a limitation in access to resources. These rescue boats are expensive and also require personnel training to ensure safe handling.

Through the work of our foundation, we will provide Moultonborough with an Air Rider Hovercraft AR45 Search and Rescue vehicle. This will also include staff training directly with the manufacturers in Ontario, Canada. This effort could not be done without the cooperation of the Moultonborough Fire Chief and his staff.

The hovercraft will be maintained and managed by the Moultonborough Fire Rescue, but it will be a vital resource to all of the towns surrounding the lake. The Fire Rescue teams coordinate rescue resources across all 8 towns.

Want to know how the Fire Department plans to manage this important asset? Read the Q&A with Fire Chief Bengtson below.

Question: Where will the hovercraft be stored?

Answer: There are two fire stations, one at 948 Moultonboro Neck Road (next to JoJo’s Country Store) and the Public Safety Building located at 1035 Whittier Highway. It could be housed at either station, but it will most likely go to the Moultonboro Neck Road station as that sits it the in middle of the Lake Winnipesaukee area of town.

Question: When will the hovercraft be deployed? 

Answer: It would be deployed for any ice/water rescue incident that Moultonborough is dispatched to or requested mutual aid for. When it becomes available as a resource, we would notify each fire department of a community (Alton, Gilford, Laconia, Meredith, Center Harbor, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro) on Lake Winnipesaukee that the hovercraft is available to respond to any emergency on the Lake. It would be then up to that community to add it to their response cards or special request it. As members of the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid system, the hovercraft would be listed in the LRMFA resource list and could be made available to any one of the 38 member communities upon request as well as to NH Fish & Game and NH Marine Patrol. 

Question: Who gets to make the call to deploy the hovercraft? 

Answer: In Moultonborough, any fire department personnel can deploy any resource or apparatus of the department based upon the incident type or mutual aid request.

Question: During large event days, such as the Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby or The Pond Hockey Classic, will there be a plan to have the hovercraft out and on the ice proactively? If so, where will it be? patrolling? 

Answer: Upon receiving the hovercraft, Moultonborough Fire Rescue would begin making regular patrols (weekly or daily dependent upon weather conditions) of the response areas on Lake Winnipesaukee to check ice conditions. This would serve two purposes, one to become better familiarized with the craft and secondly, and most importantly, to identify hazard areas of open water and thin ice conditions. For events like pond hockey, which are out of town, we would make it available and coordinate with the fire department there to fit their operational plans. For the ice fishing derby, it would be best to coordinate with NH Fish & Game and the other Winnipesaukee community fire departments on a resource deployment plan based upon the hazards known and placing the hovercraft in an area where it could be deployed quickly to address those hazards.