This electric ‘sea glider’ could be the ultimate island hopper
Hawaiian Airlines is backing the 100-seat electric jet for the future of its inter-island flights.
Gliding across Hawaii’s turquoise waters could become an exciting new way to bounce between Honolulu and the outer islands of Maui, Kauai and Hawai’I (also known as the Big Island) in the not-too-distant future.
Designed by Boston-based aerospace start-up Regent, whose team includes several former Boeing engineers, the 100-seat Monarch electric sea glider has already received backing from Hawaiian Airlines, which sees the overwater vehicle as potentially the future of its extensive inter-island network.
“Innovative inter-island transportation has been core to our business since 1929 when we replaced steam ships with airplanes,” said Avi Mannis, Hawaiian Airlines Chief Marketing and Communications Officer.
The zero-emission Monarch propeller plane soars just above the sea, using aerodynamics similar to America’s Cup yachts: beginning with its hull in the water, hydrofoil acceleration generates lift to position the vehicle at around 10 metres over the water.
Regent expects the Monarch will initially be able to travel at up to 290km/h. In practical terms, the 160km journey between the harbours of Honolulu and Maui would be done just under an hour, compared to today’s 45 minute flights between the two airports – although further development is tipped to see speeds reach as high as 540km/h.
Regent says one of the biggest advantages of its electric Monarch gliders is that existing dock infrastructure can be used to deliver passengers faster on a ‘door to door’ basis, compared to travellers making their way to and from airports. So while its speed is similar to that of an aircraft, the operating costs are more in line with a boat.
Airlines should see the first Monarch joining their fleets from 2028. Regent is already manufacturing smaller electric sea gliders which use the same technology and are expected to enter service with sea transport providers such as Brittany Ferries, which sails the English Channel between the UK, Ireland, France and Spain.
New Zealand is another potential Regent destination, with Kiwi transport company Ocean Flyer signing a NZ$800m deal to bring 10 Monarchs and 15 of the smaller 12-seat Viceroy vehicles to serve customers travelling between Wellington, Blenheim and Christchurch or between Auckland, Whangarei and Waiheke.
Ocean Flyer plans to unleash its Viceroys on shorter routes of up to 300km, with its Monarchs will ply longer journeys of up to 800km.
The 17.5-metre Viceroy model features a 34-inch seat pitch and is actually wider than it is long, with a near 20-metre wingspan. It will reach speeds of up to 300km/h at full pedal and sails blissfully at up to 30 decibels quieter than aircraft or a helicopter.
The Viceroy is on track to begin full-scale sea trials next year with a view to entering service in 2025.
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Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles
16 Oct 2017
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100-seat "electric jet" ?
24 Jun 2020
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Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
21 Jul 2018
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I think they should give recognition to the originator of the idea as an "Ekranoplan" .... developed by the Russians several decades ago. Love the idea from a safety and economic view.