Craft Can Carry Four Tons, Travels Less Than Two Feet Above
Chinese state media announced Wednesday scientists have
developed an aircraft that skims water surfaces, travels long
distances at high speeds and is capable of carrying huge
Referred to as a "Wing In Ground" (WIG) aircraft, the aircraft
can reportedly fly as low as one foot, seven inches above the
surface of the sea and can attain speeds of up to 180 miles per
hour. It is rumored to be capable of carrying over four tons.
WIG effect refers to drag reduction experienced by an aircraft
as it approaches an altitude approximately twice a wingspan's
length off a surface, according to Reuters. Such aircraft are not
new -- Russia, in particular, has experimented with the technology
for several years, including the so-called "Caspian Sea Monster" of
the late-1980s, shown above.
"It's as safe as ships, although five or six times faster," said
Xu Zhengyu, vice president of the research team at Tongji
University in Shanghai. "And it can carry much more weight than
ordinary planes while costing half as much and using half as much
The WIG is reportedly one of only three types of aircraft
approved by the State Commission of Science Technology and Industry
for National Defense in the general aviation field, said Xu.
"However, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has yet to
confirm aviation regulations at such low altitudes, which may
become a problem," said the Xinhua news agency.
Xu said the plane has potential for military and border control
The China Daily said, "Taking advantage of the aerodynamics of
the ground effect, which adds extra lift when flying at very low
altitudes, the aircraft can fly close to the water's surface."
"This cuts back at least one-third on fuel consumption, compared
with standard planes of the same size, because the plane can
benefit from air buoyancy," the newspaper added.
Tongji University has planned to develop a 50-seat WIG by 2013,
with 200 prototypes capable of carrying 200 to 400 metric tons
scheduled for 2016 or 2017.