A fly­ing ferry

An in­trigu­ing mar­riage of plane and boat, the enig­matic Air­fish 8 is touted as the next big thing in fast, con­ve­nient marine trans­port.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY LAWRENCE SCHÄF­FLER

Air­fish 8 – is it a fly­ing ferry boat or plane? Both, ac­tu­ally, and it may rev­o­lu­tionise marine trans­port.

With wings, twin props and a fuse­lage, the Air­fish 8 looks more plane than boat, but in the mind of its in­ven­tor, it’s def­i­nitely a water-based craft that hap­pens to fly – al­beit only a few me­tres above the sur­face.

The ves­sel flies us­ing a phe­nom­e­non known as ‘ground ef­fect’ – which al­lows the Air­fish 8 to ‘skim’ over the water like a bird, float­ing on a cushion of air. This Wing-in-ground Ef­fect (WIG) prin­ci­ple has fea­tured promi­nently in the de­vel­op­ment of hu­man flight.

Boast­ing a 17m x 15m foot­print, the Air­fish 8 is de­signed to be op­er­ated by two crew and is able to carry six to eight pas­sen­gers. It’s pow­ered by a com­pact V8 engine run­ning on 95-oc­tane petrol. As it lands and takes off on water, it doesn’t re­quire a run­way or an air­field, mak­ing it per­fect for places where planes and fer­ries can’t go.

The ves­sel is man­u­fac­tured by Sin­ga­pore-based com­pany Wiget­works, and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ken­neth Tan says it could

rev­o­lu­tionise the way peo­ple travel, par­tic­u­larly be­tween is­lands where there are no ex­ist­ing ferry ser­vices.

“There are many is­lands which lack the fund­ing to build run­ways for con­ven­tional air­craft. And dis­tances be­tween these is­lands are of­ten too great for con­ven­tional ferry travel.”

In ad­di­tion to the tourism sec­tor where the Air­fish 8 would be ideal for fer­ry­ing pas­sen­gers to is­land re­sort des­ti­na­tions, it could also be used in the oil and gas, coast­guard and mar­itime se­cu­rity sec­tors.

“It trav­els much faster than con­ven­tional boats or air­craft while us­ing less power,” says Tan, “and pro­vides a safe, fast and com­fort­able ride as well as an eco­nom­i­cal mode of trans­port.”


Ground ef­fect is used by large-bod­ied birds such as the al­ba­tross to con­serve en­ergy in flight.

The birds – and the Air­fish 8 – fly close to the water rid­ing on a cushion of high-pres­sure air be­tween wings and the water’s sur­face.

Ground ef­fect played ma­jor role in the de­vel­op­ment of hu­man flight – ini­tially by the Wright brothers – but it was also em­ployed dur­ing WWII when bombers, low on fuel, were able to re­turn safely to their bases by fly­ing close to the ground.

The two main R&D schools for WIG crafts orig­i­nated in the for­mer Soviet Union and Ger­many. The for­mer’s school is known as the pi­o­neer of Erkra­noplans and the Ger­man school is named af­ter a Dr Alexan­dria Lip­pisch, in­ven­tor of the for­ward Delta-wing de­sign for Messer­schmitt rocket-pow­ered fighter air­craft such as the Me 163.

Rhein-flugzeug­bau Gmbh (RFB) pi­o­neered the WIG con­cept in Ger­many in the 1960s. Lip­pisch was then the prin­ci­pal en­gi­neer and de­signer of RFB. To­gether with Hanno Fis­cher, they cham­pi­oned the de­sign and con­struc­tion of sev­eral well­known WIG crafts such as the X-112, X-113 and X-114 for the Ger­man de­fence min­istry.

Fis­cher and his as­so­ci­ate Klaus Mat­ja­sic sub­se­quently de­signed and built the Air­fish fam­ily of WIGS ( Air­fish 1, Air­fish 2, and Air­fish 3) be­tween the ‘70s and ‘80s. These are the pre­de­ces­sors to the Air­fish 8. The Air­fish 8 is the world’s first WIG ves­sel to be of­fi­cially reg­is­tered as mer­chant ves­sel with the Sin­ga­pore Registry of Ship­ping.

Wiget­works is look­ing for suit­able com­pos­ite struc­ture man­u­fac­tur­ers/boat­builders to es­tab­lish third pro­duc­tion line to help in­crease the pro­duc­tion of Air­fish 8 units to meet the pro­jected cus­tomer de­mand. BNZ

ABOVE The ves­sel is pow­ered by a 500hp V8 run­ning con­ven­tional 95-oc­tane petrol.

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