The Airfish 8 may look like a plane, but according to Singapore firm Wigetworks, the WIG (wing-in-ground-effect) manufacturer, it is more like a ship than an aircraft. The Airfish 8 (AF8) is designed to travel around a half meter to six meters (1.5-60 feet) above the surface level of large or small bodies of water through a process of aerodynamic lift created by the ground effect (GE) between the aircraft and the surface of the water. Think of it as a sort of bird in flight that uses the air to increase lift and decreases drag when close to the ground or another surface.
Carrying up to 8 passengers, this WIG vessel was the first in the world to be officially registered as a merchant vessel with the Singapore Registry of Shipping on March 31, 2010. This was a huge achievement for the company, but not initially what Wigetworks was trying to accomplish. According to their site, “Wigetworks Private Limited (Wigetworks) was incorporated in Singapore in April 2004. It was established with the main purposes to commercialize Wing-in-Ground (WIG) effect craft technology and to be the center of excellence of WIG technology.”
While the aircraft, itself, is based on German prototypes by Mr.Hanno Fischer and his partner Mr.Klaus Matjasic from the 1970s to the early 2000s, it presents an entirely unique solution to air travel that many would find convenient and cost-effective. Powered by a compact seven-liter V8 500bhp racing car engine that runs on 95 Octane automotive gasoline means the fuel for this craft is significantly more cost efficient than typical commercial aircraft. The Airfish 8 has a 17m by 15m (56 by 50ft) footprint and is two to three times faster than most ferries (typically 10 or 20 knots (10 to 20 mph / 18 to 40 kph)), traveling at speeds up to 120 mph (106 knots / 196 km/h).
With travel range capabilities of around 300 nautical miles, the AF8 has an aerodynamic fuselage, sleek wings, twin propellers and can carry a load of one ton and an additional 350 lbs of luggage. Operation of the aircraft is also cost effective as no pilot license is needed to captain one of these unique vessels.
The Airfish 8 doesn’t need a runway to take off or land. A simple 1,600 ft is all that is needed for take-off and it’s small hull means docking stations can be constructed inexpensively and in shallow waters near the shoreline. This along with the size and capability to fly over water make accessing areas traditional aircraft have difficulty getting to much easier.
Passenger’s susceptible to motion or sea-sickness can also rejoice in the fact that it’s lower altitude and above sea-level flight will help to mitigate those symptoms. For those with a fear of flying can also benefit from the Airfish as it is designed specifically to mitigate accident risk, in the event of a hardware failure, the craft is capable of making an emergency landing only a few meters below.
Helping Local Communities
While this economical vessel would be put to use in the private and commercial travel industry, it’s existence and use between thousands of islands such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Polynesia and the Caribbean can serve to benefit the communities in these areas as well. Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, executive director Kenneth Tan said: “There are a lot of islands that do not have the funding to build infrastructure to take light aircraft or even bigger aircraft. And there are islands that are too far away, whereby conventional ferry travel could be too long. And these islands are, most of the time, left deserted. With this craft, we’re breaking into new frontiers, reopening up all these islands for future development.”
Mr. Tan has said that besides the tourism sector where the Airfish 8 can be used to ferry passengers from resorts to island destinations, the craft could also be used in the oil and gas, coastguard and maritime security sectors. “The other interesting sectors would be law enforcement and medical evacuations where they can make full use of the speed and the lower operating costs, to help in safety and prevent illegal activities,” he said.
According to the Wigetworks’ site “Wigetworks has started looking for suitable composite structure manufacturers/boat builders to establish a third production line to help increase the production of Airfish 8 units to meet the projected customers’ demand thereafter.” With just two production lines currently, the projected production is at 3-6 crafts within the first year and if more lines are gained in the near future up to 50 crafts could be completed per year for the next 10 years.
One of the potential major projects in the works for the company is a larger craft that could carry up to 50 passengers, a major leap from the 8 the Airfish 8 currently carries. In fact, Wigetworks has since production began, made the move to Malacca for more sea space for captain training and flight demonstrations, a promising move for those AF8 fans eagerly awaiting commercial implementation of the craft.
We know we are.
Airfish 8 Additional Specifications
- Useful Load -1000 kg
- Baggage Capacity -160kg
- Seating Capacity- 2 Crew + 6 to 8 Passengers
- V8, 500 HP
- Fuel: Gasoline, Octane 95 or above
- Consumption ~ 70 litres/hour in normal condition
- Carbon Fibre Reinforced
- Plastic / Sandwich Composite
- Operating height: up to 7m
- Maximum Speed: 106 knots
- Cruising Speed: ~ 80 knots
- Take off distance: ~ 500m
- Landing distance: ~ 300 to 500m
- Range: ~ 300 nautical miles
- Turning Radius:
- Ground effect mode: ~ 160m
- Displacement mode: ~ 100m