Airfish-8 wing-in-ground effect aircraft set to begin operations in 2025

Airfish-8 Wing-in-ground Effect Aircraft
The Airfish-8 capitalizes on the wing-in-ground effect, a unique aerodynamic phenomenon that provides additional lift and reduced drag when flying close to the water's surface. Images courtesy Wigetworks/Peluca

The Airfish-8, a wing-in-ground effect aircraft developed by Singapore’s ST Engineering, represents a significant advancement in the intersection of marine and aerial transport. Slated for service in 2025, this vehicle promises to redefine the way we think about short-distance travel over water.

At its core, the Airfish-8 is designed to operate in a unique niche, leveraging the wing-in-ground (WIG) effect to achieve remarkable efficiencies in flight. This technology allows the Airfish-8 to hover just above the water’s surface, utilizing the aerodynamic lift generated by its proximity to the sea. The result is a mode of transport that is three times quicker than conventional boats and 2.3 times more fuel-efficient than traditional aircraft.

The design of the Airfish-8 is nothing short of futuristic. With its enormous reverse-delta wing, large double T-tail, top-mounted pusher propellers, and dramatically upswept wingtips, it presents an image right out of a science fiction movie. However, its operation is grounded in well-established principles of aerodynamics. The vehicle is powered by a 500-horsepower V8 car engine, which uses regular unleaded fuel, making it not only innovative but also practical for regular operations.

This combustion-powered seaplane is capable of carrying two crew members and up to eight passengers or a ton of cargo, offering a versatile solution for various transportation needs. It requires no specialized infrastructure for its operation, as it can utilize regular jetty facilities for takeoff and landing. Once in motion, it accelerates to takeoff speed, lifting off to fly low over the water surface at speeds up to 90 knots (104 mph/167 km/h), maintaining an altitude of 2-23 ft (0.6-7 m) to optimize the wing-in-ground effect.

Airfish-8 Wing-in-ground Effect Aircraft Lift-Off
The Airfish-8 speeds up on the water’s surface before lift-off.

The Airfish-8 is not only efficient and fast but also promises a more comfortable journey compared to boats, especially in choppy waters. Its ability to fly at low altitudes makes it an attractive option for tourist operations, where the aesthetic appeal of the vehicle in motion can be a significant draw.

The concept of the Airfish-8 is based on designs from the 1960s by Dr. Alexander Martin Lippisch. Its reverse delta and T-tail configuration allow it to achieve flight altitudes up to 50% of its wingspan, providing a higher operational flexibility compared to its predecessors, such as the Russian Ekranoplans.

While the Airfish-8 stands out for its proven design and operational efficiency, it is part of a broader trend towards innovative marine and air transport solutions. Competing technologies, such as the fully electric Regent Seaglider and DARPA’s “Liberty Lifter” X-Plane, highlight the dynamic nature of this field and the ongoing search for cleaner, more efficient transport methods.

Airfish-8 Wing-in-ground Effect Aircraft On Water
Vehicles utilizing ground effect, such as the Airfish-8, have existed for several years without achieving widespread commercial adoption.

ST Engineering, in a joint venture with Peluca (formerly Wigetworks), aims to commercialize the Airfish under the name ST Engineering AirX. The first customer sale, a letter of intent from Eurasia Mobility Solutions, includes up to 10 aircraft intended for use in tourism and private transportation around Turkey, with delivery starting in 2025.

Although the agreement is currently a letter of intent and subject to various conditions for final sale, the potential impact of the Airfish-8 on short-distance travel over water is undeniable. It embodies a blend of marine robustness and aerial efficiency, offering a glimpse into the future of transportation.

Source: ST Engineering