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article imagePart boat, part plane, the ''Airfisch'' about to make its debut

By Karl Morgenstern     Jan 25, 2001 in Technology
BAD SASSENDORF, Germany (dpa) - Airplane designers with visionary ideas apparently are not becoming extinct. Over and again, interesting plane constructions take to the skies, holding the promise of mapping out new territory in aeronautics.
The most recent example of this is the "Airfisch", which is not exactly an airplane, but also isn't a boat, either.
With a prototype about to undergo testing, already it has attracted greater interest in Australia and on the Maledives than in Germany itself. People got their first glimpse of it in mid-January when it celebrated its "rollout" on the tiny airfield of Bad Sassendorf, a few hundred kilometres west of Berlin.
The "flying flounder", as it has already been dubbed, and which got major support in its development from Berlin's Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Technology (BMBF), can carry eight persons for a distance of up to 400 kilometres.
What makes it different? The answer is that it is to fly only two metres above the water's surface.
The first "Airfisch 8" is destined to be renamed "Flightship 8". It will be dismantled, shipped to Australia, and there reassembled for its first comprehensive test flights necessary before it can be put into service.
The plane is the latest and certainly the most attractive product based on so-called "hover wing" technology. Behind it all is a renowned German technology company, Fischer Flugmechanik (FF).
The aim of the engineers and designers is to make it possible to transport people and freight five times faster over water than conventional ships.
One interesting side effect is that because the "Airfisch" flies at a height of 0.1 to 2.5 metres over the water, passengers won't get seasick because the craft doesn't touch the waves.
Designers for a long time studied marine birds on their long- distance flights in developing the aerofoil technology. What they saw was that as a wing gets closer to the water's surface, the lift effect is boosted at the same time that wind resistance is diminished.
An FF-built two-seater "Airfisch 3" has already been tested in Germany and is now undergoing testing in Australia.
The new "Flightship 8" as well is only intended by to be the predecessor of much larger aircraft.
Hanno Fischer and Klaus Matjasic of the FF company are already dreaming of the "Hoverwing 80" which could carry 80 people at a speed of 180 kilometres per hour for a distance of 800 kilometres while clearing waves of up to 2.5 metres. Such performance parametres would make such a vehicle operational on the Baltic Sea.
The development of the "Airfisch 8" was carried out under a joint venture between FF and with the company Flightship Ltd., based in Singapore and Australia.
The idea behind it is the increasing tourism in many regions of Asia and above all in the Indian Ocean vacation paradise of the Maledives.
There, the famous air company "Hummingbird" is trying to cope with the challenge of distributing the tourists arriving from around the world to the many islands. After a a number of serious accidents, the mostly Russian-built helicopters are on their way out.
So Flightship Ltd. and FF believe the "Airfisch" would, in the long run, ideally complement the many hydroplanes in service in such oceanic vacation resorts.
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