Q: What are the best hover and air-cushion mowers for professional use?

A: This type of mower is often associated with the domestic market, where the Flymo brand dominates. You can hear them humming away on Sunday afternoons in gardens up and down the country. But fitted with a petrol engine, a wider deck and no grass catcher, you have a mower that is useful in the professional sector.

Hover or air-cushion mowers are ideal for use on slopes, around lakes and beneath overhanging shrubs. Skimming over the ground on a cushion of air makes light work of grass cutting in several difficult situations. There are several very good models from which to choose.

The first professional hover I used was the Flymo Contractor GT2. This was a two-stroke unit, fitted with a JLO. The lift was terrific - for its day, anyway. It weighed around 15kg or 16kg and was a beautiful mover. A 20in cutting width meant a good work rate was easy to achieve. But I have not seen a GT2 for about 20 years. Flymo's latest petrol-powered unit is the XL500, which is the same as the Husqvarna GX560.

The GX560 has the same 50.5cm cutting width as my old Contractor GT2 but it has a Honda GCV160 engine. Despite moving up to a four-stroke, weight remains a trim 16.5kg. The machine benefits from three cutting heights (10-30mm) and undercarriage wheels are available. The Husqvarna GX560 is currently priced at £399.99 ex VAT.

Another really good air-cushion mower at the time, and well liked by parks and gardens, was the Allen. When the manufacturer went to the wall a few years ago, the rights were acquired by Hayter. A few updates were made but basically the Allen, now manufactured by Hayter in Hertfordshire, should not disappoint.

There are four models in the range, starting with the XR44 Hovertrim. This is a 40cm machine, designed to be lightweight and boasting efficient aerodynamics. It carries a 57cc four-stroke Honda engine designed specifically for the mower. At 46cm wide, the 446 Hovertrim will give you a bit quicker ground coverage, but I would look at the top end of the range - the 51cm 450 Professional and 53cm 453 Professional.

Like others in the Allen range, these have ABS decks. The Honda GCV160 is used on each Professional and the weight of each model is 19kg. The 450 and 453 will set you back £416.17 and £467.23 ex VAT respectively.

If you have a little more cash to spare, it would be well worth looking at the Lloyds MH19H4 hover. It costs £499 ex VAT, but I am very impressed by the performance of this unit. Tall grass is cut and mulched for a clean and professional look. Power comes from the four-stroke GCV160 Honda engine - as used by the other manufacturers. There is plenty of power and it is quiet.

Without a doubt, this is a commercial-duty mower. It has been designed and built for life in a tough environment. The high-density, high-strength, polyethylene deck is UVand chemical-resistant. It is rugged and I particularly like the long handles on this mower. They are joined to the deck using metal connection plates for added strength and to prevent premature fracturing.

As an added bonus, the cutting height of the MH19H4 is adjustable. Normal cutting height is between 12mm and 76mm, but an optional lift kit means that the grass can be left at 100mm if required.

Sally Drury has reported for HW and its forerunner GC&HTJ for 27 years and has spent more than five years testing machinery for HW and What Kit? The advice in this helpline is independent.


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