Pilots in training: Local officials learn to operate hovercraft on Manistee Lake

Officials learn how to operate the Norman Township Fire Department hovercraft. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Local officials took to Manistee Lake on Friday for hovercraft training.

An official with the Norman Township Fire Department and another with the Manistee Township Fire Department were in training to become hovercraft pilots.

Capt. Jake Fischer, of the Norman Township Fire Department, was teaching recruits the ropes.

Daniel Funk, deputy chief at Norman Township Fire Department, said Friday’s weather had prime conditions to learn how to operate a hovercraft due to the icy lake.

“It floats across all surfaces,” Funk said. “We use it mainly for water and ice rescue. It’s better for ice water rescues than anything, it maneuvers on the ice better than most surfaces.

“It’s 65 horsepower, floats nine inches above the surface and will go across pretty much any surface, as long as you have clearance. If there’s a branch sticking out of the water more than nine inches, it’s going to hook the bags.”

Funk said the hovercraft has been in use for seven years, but Norman Township is aiming to train at least one person from each department in the county.

“It carries two pilots plus a patient, and we utilize it mainly on the Pine River,” Funk said. “We are trying to get pilots trained at all departments or as many as possible throughout the county. It was bought with revenue sharing funds.”

In the past few years, Funk said the county has seen more of a need to use the hovercraft.

“Now we are seeing more uses for it county-wide,” he said. “Right now, they are learning the basic functions of it, and how it feels to operate it.”

An official with the Onekama Fire Department will also be trained in the near future.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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