Kiwi Electric Seaglider Plane Completes First Test Flight

Ocean Flyer’s all-electric prototype glider made its first flight off Rhode Island in the United States. Video / Flyer Ocean

A zero-emission flying ferry has taken its first flight to change the way New Zealanders travel.

Ocean Flyer’s “seaglider” is part ferry, part plane and a bold attempt to bring electric air travel to New Zealand.

In April, Air Napier owner Shal Aslam and former RNZAF Air Vice-Marshal John Hamilton signed a $700 million contract for 25 craft to New Zealand. . A brave bet given that the transport prototype had not yet taken off.

Last Thursday, the plane made its first flight in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.

Billy Thalheimer, CEO and co-founder of REGENT aeronautical engineers didn’t minimize his high ambitions for the technology.

“This is the next great moment in the history of human transportation,” said an ecstatic Thalheimer. “40% of the world’s population lives in coastal communities,” he said, whom he hopes to impress with the “float, foil and fly” glider test show.

The company’s ambition is to fly passengers to New York, the Hawaiian Islands, Barcelona and Tokyo by the end of 2025. The company said it already has nearly $12 billion in orders of electric seaplanes from international buyers, including Aotearoa.

The ocean glider in full test flight in Rhode Island, USA.  Photo / Provided
The ocean glider in full test flight in Rhode Island, USA. Photo / Provided

Shah Aslam was more pragmatic about what the “bold solution” meant for New Zealand and its green transport aspirations.

“The government’s ambition for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2050 is going to be difficult to achieve,” Aslam said, after last week’s test flight.

“The Seagliders are perfect for our island nation and will help make our transition to carbon neutral a reality.”

Capable of carrying 100 passengers at a speed of 540 km/h, the company aims to offer regional flights at the price of ferry tickets. In April, the company suggested a flight from Whangārei to Auckland could cost as little as $30 and take less than half an hour.

The fleet of 25 Seagliders will initially operate from Auckland and Wellington, with plans to serve Cook Strait services to Wellington in Christchurch.

If out of the water, Ocean Flyer aims to offer low fares and bus frequency thanks to a low cost of operating the craft is perfect for serving New Zealand’s coastal towns. Whether it’s an airplane, ferry or hydrofoil, the unusual electric transport could land in a port near you in the not-too-distant future.

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