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Flying boats from Terre Haute.

Are you in need of a rescue craft for saving people in waterlogged terrain? Do you produce agricultural products that need to be tended without so much as a brush of the equipment? Or is your city seeking inexpensive cruisers for your navigable river? Hovercraft are the answer to all of the above.

Neoteric Hovercraft Inc. is one of seven companies worldwide that design, manufacture and ship these "flying boats." Based in Terre Haute since 1975, the company was organized by its president, Christopher Fitzgerald, and colleagues from the Australian Air Training Corps Cadets in the early '60s.

Why Terre Haute? Engineering-trained Fitzgerald explains, "We needed somewhere in the middle of the United States where we could base ourselves ... and, economically, the Midwest was great for acquisition of materials and for distribution. We looked at places on the coasts but it was a gut feeling we'd be better in the middle than out on the edge."

"Neoteric" describes their customers and their craft, Fitzgerald says. "We came up with our company name by looking in the dictionary to find a word describing who we were and what we were doing. Neoteric means innovative and newfangled. A lot of our customers are as innovative as our designs."

Fitzgerald works like a modern Thomas Edison. A self-professed pioneer, he thrives on product development but knows he must focus on the marketing aspects. "We have developed nine models of hovercraft with a great variety of uses," he says. "The most viable market now is for rescue missions. Civil defense authorities, search and rescue groups, sheriff departments and conservation offices are all seeing the benefit of our machines.

"A Muskegon, Mich., fire department built one of our hovercrafts from a kit and have saved several lives in the last few years. The kits make a lot of sense for fire departments because those folks have time, skills and room to build a hovercraft."

Cranberry growers on the East Coast, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the gold-mining industry are just a few of Neoteric's recent clients. And it ships products daily to such places as Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia, India, Australia, Denmark and Japan. Fitzgerald says the customer base is varied and almost always unusual in its needs and requests.

Powered by Chrysler engines, the machines are supported on a cushion of air generated by two fans. Pressure is designed not to exceed 23 pounds per square foot--less than 2 percent of the pressure exerted by a human foot. The average four-seat hovercraft is totally constructed by hand by Neoteric's 10 employees. Each machine's construction averages 3,000 man-hours. The various models start at $5,500 and can reach $100,000.

One of Fitzgerald's most recognized clients is Disney World's Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla. Neoteric manufactured 15 hovercraft decorated as dragons and trained the "human lizard" drivers for an air and water show.
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Title Annotation:Neoteric Hovercraft Inc. of Terre Haut, Indiana
Author:Hayhurst, Susan
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Words:481
Previous Article:A walk down Creative Street.
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