SHANGHAI: A new low-altitude Wing-In-Ground aircraft (WIG), especially
suitable for maritime transportation, has been developed by scientists from
The plane can fly as low as 0.5 to 5 meters from the ground, hitting speeds
of up to 300 kilometers per hour. It has the capacity to bear weight of up to 4
tons on takeoff.
"It's as safe as ships, although five or six times faster," said associate
professor Xu Zhengyu, vice-president of the research team. "And it can carry
much more weight than ordinary airplanes while costing half as much and using
half as much fuel."
Xu said the plane could also be flown for military use and border control.
According to Li Jun, another member of the team: "Unlike slow-speed cargo
ships and high-priced airplanes, it could become a first-rate vehicle for
maritime transportation. And its low altitude can increase its safety factors.
There won't be serious casualties even if it falls into the sea. Also, it could
be a good vehicle for sightseeing among islands."
Tongji University is reportedly planning to develop a 50-seat WIG by 2013,
with 200 prototypes capable of carrying 200 to 400 tons scheduled for 2016 or
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 airplanes of the same size, because the plane can benefit from air
The WIG has been listed as one of three types of aircraft given the green
light in the general aviation field by the State Commission of Science
Technology and Industry for National Defense, Xu said.
"However, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has yet to confirm
aviation regulations at such low altitudes, which may become a problem," Li
"We have a long way to go before it is launched into operation, but WIG will
have a bright future without doubt," Li said.
(China Daily 07/11/2007 page5)