Hawaii bellwether Hawaiian Airlines announced today that it’s agreed to invest in a next generation 100-person capacity all-electric seaglider known as the Regent Monarch. Read on for questions we are having about this.
See a memorizing video below of the amazing hybrid ferry/aircraft that’s set to start commercial deliveries in 2028. The hybrid plane/boat is capable of Hawaii harbor-to-harbor service, and could be an ideal replacement for the failed Hawaii Superferry.
“Once airborne, the seaglider rises only a short distance above the surface of the water using a phenomenon known in aviation as the “ground effect”: When a descending airplane is close to land or water, the air and pressure distortions between the wings and the surface create lift. It’s why an airliner appears to float just before landing. “It’s this cushion of air flying over the surface of the water.” That according to the manufacturer. The Seagliders maneuver within harbors like a boat. Once in open water, they rise to operate more like a plane.
Mokulele Airlines parent places SeaGlider order.
While Hawaiian is the manufacturer’s first U.S. development partner, it isn’t the first airline with Hawaii roots that plans to take to the water. Mokulele’s parent, Southern Airways Express, became a customer for Regent seagliders last December. That little-reported $250 million purchase was for 15 of Regent’s small 12-passenger Viceroy’s, and 5 of the latest 100-seat Monarchs that Hawaiian is interested in. Regent indicated that the Mokulele-parent deal was greatly discounted, having an actual value of more than $600 million. A number of other airlines have signed on to Regent Seagliders before today’s Hawaiian announcement. While SAE didn’t specifically mention Hawaii flights, that is a no brainer.
The plan is to provide Hawaii with interisland transportation at a fraction of the cost, noise, and emissions of existing interisland flights.
“Innovative interisland transportation has been core to our business since 1929 when we replaced steam ships with airplanes. We are excited to be an early investor in REGENT and to be involved in developing their largest seaglider – a vehicle with great potential for Hawaii’,” said Avi Mannis, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Hawaiian Airlines. “We look forward to working with REGENT to explore the technology and infrastructure needed to fulfill our vision for convenient, comfortable and environmentally sustainable interisland transportation.”
Regent added, “Seagliders will be a game-changer for sustainable regional transportation in communities such as Hawaii.
Seagliders – what are they?
These seagliders are all-electric, “wing-in-ground-effect” vehicles which travel within a wingspan of the ocean’s surface and have the speed of an airplane (200 mph) with the operating cost of a boat. They are built to the same safety specifications as modern aircraft and watercraft. These are capable of serving on routes typical of Hawaii interisland, up to 180 miles with current battery technology and later up to 500 miles with next-gen batteries.
BOH: Now this could be a very popular and unique way to travel in Hawaii, and at the same time get an ocean travel experience you don’t get on a plane. There are a lot of questions too, including whether these are TSA secured flights, or are these considered boat travel. The good news is that travel times would be very close to the current experience, unlike the SuperFerry, which took hours. Also, there would need to be car rentals available, which was an issue with SuperFerry. Are these safe for Hawaii’s wildlife including humpback whales?
History of Failed Hawaii Ferry Ventures
Did you know that before the Hawaii Superferry, interisland ferry service started similar to the Regent plan? That began in 1975. It was based on the Boeing 929 Jetfoil boat named Kamehameha, pictured below. What was initially intended to transport visitors from Honolulu Airport to Waikiki, became interisland service.
A Hawaii ferry system has always been a dream for air transportation-reliant Hawaii.
Hawaii Ferry – SeaFlite
The SeaFlite service ran for just under three years, using three boats. It ended largely due to financial problems and the boats were later used in Hong Kong. At the time, the service ran up to 12 times daily and cost a whopping $20 each way.
Seasickness presented a severe problem on the boats.
At the time, these were supposed to be smooth riding, since they skimmed just above the waves. That turned out to not be the case however. There was also a fire on one of the boats, as well as a collision with a Coast Guard boat. The 929 turned out to not be reliable and cancellations were frequent. There were concerns about Hawaiian humpback whale collisions as well, although we are not aware of any that actually happened.
The Hawaii Superferry, the most recent Hawaii ferry attempt, started in 2007 and was operational a mere 18 months. These aluminum catamarans were drive-on, drive-off, designed for military use, and could carry up to 866 passengers plus 282 cars. Issues included a lack of environmental impact studies, enormous fuel consumption due to size and weight, and ongoing seasickness problems.
“We’re focused on the maritime market, on coastal mobility,” said Thalheimer. “And that’s important [because] 40% of the world’s population lives in coastal communities.” He said Miami to Key West, Florida, would be a one-hour flight.
A full-scale prototype will be ready next year, and the company expects the first commercial product to be available in 2025, according to Thalheimer. “We’re developing a fundamentally new mode of transportation,” he said. “To change regional mobility, we need to go green, we need to go fast and we need to innovate.”