By Harry Valentine 2020-10-01 The Maritime Executive
While the pandemic has reduced the international passenger air transport industry to a fraction of its former self, aircraft manufacturers are also experiencing a major downturn in their business. The post-pandemic period would likely witness a slow and economic recovery as businesses and industries seek to rebuild while financially stressed populations seek bargain prices for goods and services.
In the area of intercity passenger transportation, more travellers would likely seek bargain travel options, thereby opening future business opportunities for service companies that specialize in offering fast, frequent and competitively priced transportation services.
During the post-pandemic period, demand such passenger transportation services would likely surge across Southeast Asia between Indonesian and Malaysian coastal cities, with likewise demand surging along Brazil’s Atlantic coast. It is in such regions where the introduction of a high-speed maritime transportation technology that travels above. and close to the water surface. could provide passenger transportation services between coastal cities.
The post-pandemic period could provide the opportunity to introduce wing-in-ground (W.I.G.) technology to commercial intercity passenger service in many regions around the world, competing with short-haul commercial air transport between cities not linked by high-speed passenger train services.
While the training of commercial airline pilots is costly, complex and time-consuming, the training is less complex and less costly for future pilots seeking to operate wing-in-ground (W.I.G.) effect technology.
While major airports charge substantial fees to land an airplane, W.I.G. planes can touch down on designated seaplane runways at a fraction of the cost and more safely than traditional seaplanes that utilize comparatively short catamaran pontoons.
When travelling above water at an elevation equivalent to 5% of wingspan, W.I.G planes consume about 1/3rd the fuel of the equivalent weight of aircraft travelling at the same speed. When travelling at half the speed of a commuter plane flying at 10,000-feet or at 150-knots instead of at 300-knots, theoretical fuel consumption would calculate to 1/3rd x 1/8th x 1.5 = 1/16th that of the aircraft. Touching down on a seaplane runway and riding up a ramp at a coastal airport would allow battery-electric W.I.G. planes with take-off wheels to accelerate along a runway to become airborne, greatly reducing energy usage compared to accelerating on the water to lift-off speed. Battery-electric W.I.G. planes would greatly exceed the travel range of battery-electric commuter planes and occupy a unique market niche.
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