Kiwi inventor sells backyard creation
17 Mar 2010
Kiwi backyard inventor Rudy Heeman is NZ$27,500 richer after his latest creation - the hoverwing, went under the virtual hammer on New Zealand auction site TradeMe.
The unassuming Nelson mechanic sold his homemade flying hovercraft - made with parts scavenged from his wife’s car, an old gas bottle from a barbecue and the control lever of his daughter’s scooter, after two weeks of intense bidding.
The auction attracted huge overseas media coverage in the UK, US, Australia and Asia. It even piqued the interest of Hollywood superstar Ashton Kutcher, who linked to it from his Twitter page.
The TradeMe auction page attracted close to 250,000 views, and had more than 8000 "watchers" or interested parties.
Heeman’s hoverwing, also dubbed a "WIG" or wing in ground effect, ended up selling to a local Christchurch buyer for NZ$27,500.
"I put the reserve at $20,000 and thought $10,000 more than that would be great, and we almost got there."
Heeman said he would now spend his time giving the new hoverwing owner flying lessons and making sure he was comfortable with handling it.
New Zealanders rallied around Rudy Heeman’s project - with many giving him the thumbs-up for his Kiwi ‘no 8 wire’ mentality.
Heeman said he was offered support from New Zealand businesses, organisations and individuals including sponsorship, business advice and free workshop space. Hundreds of comments and congratulatory messages from Kiwi well-wishers appeared on the page.
Heeman is using the money from the sale to buy his wife her dream car - a classic Mustang, and also plans to invest in his next project. He won’t reveal what it is yet, but says it will involve flying and does not have tyres.
The Youtube video of a New Zealand journalist trying out the hovercraft went viral, with links on several technology websites and publications. Although he has been offered media appearances both here and overseas, the humble Kiwi inventor has declined most of them, preferring to chip away at his next project.
Story of the hoverwing
Rudy Heeman built the hovercraft seven years ago in his small workshop in Nelson, at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. He started converting it to a flying machine three years ago.
The hoverwing can fly at speeds of up to 100kp/h at low altitude but, because it’s not classified as a plane under New Zealand civil aviation law, it means the pilot does not need a licence to fly it.
However, the hoverwing does fall under maritime law as it is considered a modified boat.
The project cost tens of thousands of dollars, and Heeman had to learn to laminate fibreglass and modify a Subaru car engine to power the machine.
Kiwi ingenuity flies again
Video: Hoverwing test-drive
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