Most people say that the hovercraft's inventor is Sir Christopher Cockerell. He built his first cushion craft - SR.N1 in 1959. Weighing seven tons hovercraft had no skirt (elastic material that surrounds the craft) and that is why it needed so big engine, to create the air cushion under the hull. The engine had 450 hp. All the power was spent for lift. Horizontal propulsion was created by moving the nozzles under the hull. SR.N1 crossed the English Channel.
In fact, I have found the history and pictures of the hovercrafts, which were built in the USSR before the World War II. If this is true, then Sir Cockerell should not be called "the father of the hovercraft". We would rather say that he reinvented it...
Vladimir Levkov since the year 1927 started to build crafts that could move on air cushion. With the time, the army became interested in his projects and his research was financed by the army. In 1935 the first test vehicle was created - L1. It was planned to be a fast craft, which could attack any ship with torpedoes and escape. In 1937 L5 was created. It had three engines, no skirt and was really fast. It is said that it could reach up to 70 knots (130 km/h), when traveling on the short wave. Unfortunately, the engines were over heating and the craft was being damaged by waves and salted water all the time. With the beginning of the war, the financing was cut off and Levkov stopped his researches. More about Levkov and his machines here.
Pictures present: L1, L5 and L5 concept.