HONOLULU(KHON2) — Two local airlines are considering a high-tech seaglider for neighbor island travel. But experts see challenges on the horizon.
The REGENT Seaglider boasts “zero-emission, high-speed coastal transportation” according to REGENT and is considered a maritime vessel under the Coast Guard.
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Companies like Hawaiian Airlines and Mokulele Airlines are already onboard.
Mokulele Airline’s parent company, Southern Airways, purchased 20 aircraft and invested $250 million according to their Chief of Staff, Keith Sisson.
“This was done for our mainland operation at Southern Airways, primarily focusing on the Northeast and Nantucket, Florida Keys, Miami, Bahama areas,” Sisson explained.
Sisson said they are planning community meetings to see if there’s interest locally.
“We’re so programmed to look at airports, and now you’re no longer limited to airports,” Sisson said. “We can go into harbors and you start looking at where all the harbors are across the state and you can go from any harbor to any harbor.”
Hawaiian Airlines is investing and partnering with REGENT to design a 100 passenger seaglider according to Hawaiian Airlines Chief Marketing Officer Avi Mannis.
But there’s no guarantee we’ll see it here in the islands.
“We also want to make sure that we take the time to do the economic and technical assessment and to get input from the community,” Mannis said. “Because we’re not going to invest in buying any of these vehicles until we’re confident that it’s a new form of transportation that’s going to be welcomed by the community.”
Mike Hansen, president of the Hawaii Shippers Council, wonders if the REGENT seaglider will work where others have failed.
“There was a company called Seaflight in the 1970s, which operated hydrofoils inter-island service,” Hansen said. “Ultimately, that proved to be unsuccessful, because of the high maintenance costs and the damage that the vessels took from operating inter-island with the heavy seas.”
“We have some of the roughest oceans anywhere on Earth,” said aviation expert Peter Forman. ” So you’re going to have rogue waves, you’re going to have jumping humpback whales, you’re going to have lots and lots of seabirds.”
The Superferry also attempted to bring fast ferry service between the Hawaiian islands and failed.
“That also ended badly. They were aluminum hauled catamarans. They were unable to maintain their schedule in the heavy weather. And they did take, one of the vessels, did take some hull damage in route from Honolulu to Kahului. So eventually those vessels were withdrawn from service. Of course, they had lots of legal problems. But there were also significant operational problems.”Mike Hansen, president of the Hawaii Shippers Council
“It’s very interesting technology,” Forman said. “But again, we need to see it in service to know whether or not it would work here in the islands.”
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REGENT stands for Regional Electric Ground Effect Nautical Transport. REGENT Seagliders are set to start operations across the U.S. in 2025.