News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 17, 2013

‘Flying’ on the Wabash: Yahoo! films Terre Haute-built hovercraft for business feature

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It’s been featured in news stories on all the big networks, been part of a “viral” video on YouTube and been in the spotlight on NBC’s “Today” show.

Now, Terre Haute’s Neoteric Hovercraft, a small business that makes personal and commercial hovercraft, will be introduced to millions as part of the Yahoo! Finance “Breakout Profiles” series, which looks at unique companies doing extraordinary things.

And Neoteric, based in a nondescript compound near Franklin Elementary School, is certainly out of the ordinary.

“We’re definitely getting worldwide attention,” said Filip Przbysz, Neoteric’s director of marketing and communications, who was standing near the 18th green at Hulman Links Golf Course Tuesday as a three-person Yahoo! Studios crew filmed Neoteric president Chris Fitzgerald zooming past in a Neoteric HoverGolf Cart, a new kind of hovercraft designed for golf course use.

Later this month, Windy Knoll Golf Club in Springfield, Ohio, will become the first golf course in the U.S. to offer a foursome a chance to play a round of golf using a HoverGolf Cart.

The course purchased two of the carts from Neoteric and is planning to unveil them July 27 during a promotional outing featuring LPGA legend Nancy Lopez.

Windy Knoll may be the first, but certainly not only, golf course interested in the unusual carts, Przbysz said. Other carts have been ordered for delivery to Europe, and there is a lot of interest in the Middle East, he said.

“This could put Terre Haute on the world map,” Przbysz said.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, company president Fitzgerald did what he’s growing accustomed to: Flying his new golf cart hovercraft for the rolling cameras.

Yahoo! Studios crews filmed Fitzgerald in the heat of the day at Hulman Links on the 18th hole. He piloted the “golf cart” expertly through the first pond on the hole (the one on the left side of the fairway) and also through the second water hazard, which features a small fountain in the middle.

And, to the possible horror of watching golfers, Fitzgerald took his craft onto the 18th green. Because it floats 9 inches of the ground, the craft didn’t make a mark, even when Fitzgerald, who couldn’t resist doing a few “doughnuts,” accidentally tagged the flag stick.

Yahoo! Studios producer Kevin Chupka, who was directing the action Tuesday, said his job often keeps him in Yahoo!’s New York studio. But, as with this assignment, sometimes he and his colleagues are able to travel the U.S. and meet some fascinating people doing amazing things, he said.

The job can even be a little scary. After filming the HoverGolf Cart from a second hovercraft on the Wabash River later in the day, the second craft, carrying the Yahoo! crew, became hung up on a rocky ledge near the Fairbanks Park boat launch. Damage to the craft was minimal, but it was a vivid reminder of another key message that Fitzgerald always stresses: Flying a hovercraft is not like driving a car. It’s like flying an aircraft and requires serious training.

Neoteric, as a matter of fact, offers training and is hoping to convince the U.S. Navy — which operates much larger, multi-million dollar hovercraft — to consider using Neoteric to train its pilots here in Terre Haute.

That’s just another iron in the fire for this unusual and innovative local business.

For more information, visit www.neoterichovercraft.com and www.hovercrafttraining.com.



Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com