Article Image

IPFS News Link • Transportation

Airfish-8 wing-in-ground effect aircraft slated for service in 2025

•, By Loz Blain

It's arresting enough to look at even when it's just floating, with its enormous reverse-delta wing, large double T-tail, top-mounted pusher props and wickedly upswept wingtips. But to watch it in action, gliding perilously close to the ocean, leaving more of an indentation behind it than a wake? Absolutely spectacular.

The Airfish-8 will carry two crew, and either 8 passengers or up to a ton of cargo. It's a combustion-powered seaplane requiring no particular infrastructure, since it'll operate off regular jetty facilities, and its 500-horsepower V8 car engine fills up on regular unleaded.

It'll push itself out of port on the water, then accelerate to takeoff speed, at which point it'll lift off and stay between 2-23 ft (0.6-7 m) over the water surface, taking advantage of the bonus lift in this wing-in-ground effect zone to fly low and efficiently at up to 90 knots (104 mph/167 km/h). Much faster than boats, then – and a lot more comfortable when the water's choppy, although it'll still have to take off and land in the waves.

It's not as fast as a quick seaplane, but it's considerably more efficient, as well as easier to fly. And when it comes to tourist operations, it's hard to ignore just how gorgeous this thing is in motion; people will book a long way ahead for an Airfish ride, we suspect.

As we wrote last time we looked at the Airfish, this is the realization of 1960s-era designs from one Dr. Alexander Martin Lippisch, who pioneered this reverse delta/t-tail configuration back when Russian Ekranoplans were still roaming the Earth. This wing configuration allows a wing-in-ground effect vehicle to fly at altitudes up to 50% of its wingspan, letting it rise higher when conditions are choppier where the Ekranoplans of the day had to stay under about 10%.