Ask any person on the street: "What is a hydrofoil?". You will get a myriad of answers, but not many will be correct. One can expect everything from: "I dunno!", to: "Oh, I was on one of those crossing the English Channel last summer. You know - one of those boats with a big rubber bag around it and air spewing out all around". Well, our world traveler was not on a hydrofoil, but rather one of the SRN-7 air cushion vehicles that regularly transit the Channel. Other travelers will swear that they were on a hydrofoil when in actuality, it was only a catamaran. The layman's mistake in the latter case is understood since the center portion of a catamaran's hull is indeed raised above the water surface, but by its side hulls, not by a foil, or "underwater wing", which characterizes a hydrofoil craft!
One of the purposes of this book, therefore, is to make certain that the reader, whether a world traveler or not, will never make any mistake about knowing when he is on a hydrofoil, or merely some other high speed boat. Of course, the intent is really to accomplish a lot more than this. Since there is considerable romance about hydrofoils, just as there is about aviation and space travel, this element of man's fascination with ships that fly is also portrayed.
We start our story of the modern hydrofoil quite logically with its early history, affording space to only a relatively small number of the host of inventors and experimentors who provided the foundation for later work. Then came the creative Italians who reduced their patented ideas to practice. No book about hydrofoils would be complete if it did not include the highly respected work of Alexander Graham Bell, several Americans, and of course the German contributions of von Schertel and Tietjens. During the 1950s, which has been called the "Decade of Experimental Progress", a large number of hydrofoil craft were built which provided many learning experiences in the process. For the high speeds of 80 to 100 knots that were envisioned by the more aggressive hydrofoilers at that time, it was necessary to expand the technical data base, and hence, several large scale test vehicles were built. The product of this technical information was an aggressive U.S. Navy program starting in the 1960s with the development of four hydrofoils, namely: HIGH POINT, FLAGSTAFF, TUCUMCARI, and PLAINVIEW. Simultaneously the Canadians and Europeans proceeded with hydrofoil developments, although along completely different lines than the U.S. Navy.
Culmination of the U.S. Navy developments was the Navy Fleet hydrofoil - the PHM - which occupies a special place not only in this book, but in the hearts and minds of so many of the hydrofoilers in this country. PHM's history with its early connection to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the program's subsequent trials and tribulations, and formation of a Squadron of six hydrofoils at Key West, Florida, is an important part of the modern hydrofoil era. The Squadron's commitment "To Go In Harm's Way" and operational success is a tribute to many devoted Navy personnel, both "bluesuiters" and civilians, and industrial enthusiasts.
For the more technically inclined reader, the chapter on why and how hydrofoils fly will be of particular interest. After all, why lift a boat's hull out of the water when for thousands of years since the dugout log canoe and Noah's Ark, mankind was satisfied to leave the hull in the water? Then too, after you lift the hull out of the water, how do you stabilize, power, maneuver and control such a craft so it doesn't crash lnjg waves rather than glide gently above the waves? Answers to these questions and an Appendix containing sketches and drawings of many hydrofoils described rounds out the technical aspects of the book.
There are thousands of hydrofoils in operation around the world, except for the United States. These craft, and the dearth of same in the U.S. are described and explained. And of course, everyone wants to know about the future - what's next? The author humbly provides his version of the hydrofoil crystal ball.