Sir Christopher CockerellDied 1 Jun 1999 at age 88 (born 4 Jun 1910).English inventor of the hovercraft. He was an electronics engineer with the Marconi Company (1935-50) where he worked on airborne navigational equipment and on radar. Then he began a boat-hire business. Considering the water drag on the hull of a boat, he had the idea of raising the boat on a cushion of air. In 1954, he performed a crucial experiment using kitchen scales, tin cans, and a vacuum cleaner to show that a stream of air could produce the required lift. The next year he built a working balsa wood model with a model-aircraft engine. The first full-scale prototype, SR-N1, weighed 7 tons and was capable of 60 knots. It crossed the English Channel in 1959 (with Cockerell aboard). Hovercraft entered regular cross-channel service in 1968.