Ingénieur Jean Bertin

Ingénieur Jean Bertin is captured from the air making a rare crossing of the Channel for Hoverspeed.
Photo: © FotoFlite

This supposedly state-of-the-art hovercraft was named after its French inventor, Jean Bertin, somebody who maybe would have preferred to have remained anonymous considering the dismal track record of his namesake! Manufactured by the French aerospace firm, Sedam, the ‘Naviplane’, as it was dubbed, was S. N. C. F.’s attempt to buy into the Seaspeed services previously exclusively operated by British Rail. From an aesthetic point of view, this hovercraft looked more modern than her Anglo counterparts, but she was a complete and utter 'lemon' when it came to her operating performance. A sister, Cote d’ Argent, was destroyed by fire before making her debut, setting an ominous precedent for the prospects of Ingénieur Jean Bertin.

She arrived at Boulogne in late 1977 and began taking her first paying passengers the following summer after some typical teething problems were dealt with. She was rejected by the new Hoverspeed consortium and was only readmitted to the fleet after some eighteen months of modification work. The French must have hoped that their efforts would be rewarded with a successful outcome. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Ingénieur Jean Bertin suffered, amongst other embarrassments, a total engine failure whilst in the Channel. It seemed she was cursed from the outset. Her demise was sealed when she was broken up for scrap by a mechanical digger at Boulogne Hoverport!

Ingénieur Jean Bertin
Builder: Sedam, Pauillac, France.
Yard number: 2.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 50,0 x 23,0.
Gross tonnage: 260.
Engines: .
Power: 32,000 B. H. P.
Speed (knots): 72 (max).
Passenger certificate: 385.
Car capacity: 45.

11.1977: Delivered to S. N. C. F.
30.11.1977: Arrived at Boulogne for trials.
5.7.1978: Entered service Boulogne/Dover.
17.8.1981: Taken out of service after excessive technical faults required rectification.
14.12.1982: Tested during trials.
23.2.1983: Returned to commercial service Boulogne/Dover.
7.1983: Withdrawn from service.
10.1983: Broken up at Boulogne Hoverport.