Aircraft CO2 Emissions and Flying Boats


By Harry Valentine 2016-10-16 18:58:56

During early October, the International Aviation Transportation Association, along with the International Commercial Aviation Organization, convened a meeting where they resolved to greatly reduce commercial aircraft carbon emissions. In terms of freight transport, the largest commercial freight aircraft carry a tiny percentage of the tonnage/volume of a container ship, travel at many times the speed of the ship and spew out many times the amount of carbon per unit volume of per unit weight of payload. The market for the aircraft is fast delivery at prices customers are willing to pay.

The turbine engines of commercial aircraft have a wide fuel tolerance and can more easily switch between fuels than piston engines that have a very narrow range of fuel tolerance. Some kinds of carbon free fuels such as hydrogen may only be applicable over very short flights and battery electric power is far better suited for a maritime vehicle than for an aircraft. Marine vessels can use propulsive energy storage technologies that would be quite impractical for aircraft, except perhaps if the transportation technology were a hybrid between an aircraft and a boat.

Aircraft Versus Winged Boats

The wings of commercial aircraft generate a vacuum effect on the top side of the wing as the aircraft accelerates, with the difference in air pressure above and under the wing enabling flight to high altitude. However, some varieties of seabirds can glide for greatly extended distances just above the water surface, with their wings generating a dynamic pressure between the underside of the wing and the water surface. If the water contributes to a vessel remaining buoyant either on the water surface or even above the water surface, the vessel is classified as a maritime vessel.

Hovercraft and winged boats (wing-in-ground effect vessels) are maritime vessels that are subject to the regulations of the IMO, with Type A vessels ‘sailing’ within a few meters of the water surface and Type B vessels being able to lift to an elevation of 150 meters (500 feet) above the water surface. Winged boats will typically require about 35 percent of the propulsive energy of a comparable size of commercial aircraft travelling at the same speed and a small fraction of the energy to become airborne when accelerating along a solid surface such as a runway.

Winged Boats at Coastal Airports

Several countries have commercial airports built next to or close to the ocean coast, opening the future possibility of Type B winged boats to operate between domestic coastal airports in several nations. These vessels would ‘sail-fly’ close to the water surface throughout most of their voyages, rising to higher elevation on approach to and departure from coastal airports.

Flying boats would consume less energy and also consume less energy than a comparable size of aircraft taking off to 3,000 meters (10,000 feet).

Boats and ships in bays and ports would prevent touch down on and lift-off from water, making coastal airports a more viable alternative. Type B winged boats could operate between coastal airports to provide fast and convenient domestic transportation services in several countries, as listed below:




Sydney, Hobart, Devonport, Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville




Vancouver, Victoria, Courtney, Port Hardy, Sandspit, Prince Rupert, Halifax (needs additional research)

African Islands

Mauritius, Maldives, Reunion , Seychelles, Zanzibar, Comoros

East Timor

Dili, Pante Macassar


Nice, Corsica


Corfu, Iraklion, Thessalonica

Hong Kong

Chep Lap Kok Airport, Macau International Airport




Mumbai (Juhu Airport), Goa, Trivandrum                                                                                                                               


Java (Surabaya, Semarang), Bali (Kuta), Sumatra (Medan – Perbaungan, fly over river), East Nusa Tenggara (Badjo, Maumere, Ende), Pulao Alor (Alor Island Airport), Pulao Ambon (Ambon Airport), Pulao Lombok (Mataram, fly over river), Pulao Morotai (Pitu airport), Pulao Seram (Amahai), Pulao Tarakan, Pulao Timor (Kupang)


Tel Aviv






Genoa, Rome, Palermo (Sicily), Brindisi


Osaka (Kansai Airport), Tokyo


Penang, Langkawi, Kuala Terengganu, Sabah (Kota Kinabalu airport), Sarawak (Kuching – fly over river), Sundakan, Kudat, Tawau


Singapore (Changi)

New Zealand

Auckland, Wellington


Muscat International Airport (north runways)


Barcelona, Mallorca (Palma), San Javier, Gibraltar (U.K.), Tangier (Morocco)

The Gulf

Doha, Manama, Bandar Abbas, Qeshm, Bandar Lengeh, Bandar Bushehr


Olongapo (Subic Bay), San Fernando, San Jose, Cebu-Mactan Airport, Calbayog City, Puerto Princesa, Laoag, Laguindingan Airport, Bulan, Masbate (Espinosa Airport), Mindanao-Dipolog Airport, Bacolod (Romualdez Airport), Taloban, Pagadian City, Dumaguete-Silliman, Tagbilaran, Roxas City, Pagadian, Davao (Francisco Bangoy Airport), Vigan (Mindoro Airport), Sanga-Sanga Island (Sanga-Sanga airport), Jolo (Jolo airport – fly over roadway), Manila (needs additional research)


Los Angeles, Honolulu, Santa Barbara, Eureka- Arcata, Coos Bay (Southwest Oregon), Crescent City (Jack McNamara Field), Boston (Logan)

West Papua

Sorong, Kaimama, Manokwari, Pulao Biak


Montego Bay – Kingston (Jamaica), Aruba – Curacao – Bonaire (Dutch West Indies), Cartagena – Turbo (Colombia), Belize City (Belize), Limon (Costa Rica), Caracas (Venezuela), Santiago de Cuba (Cuba), Tobago (Robinson airport), Grenada (Bishop Airport), St Vincent (Joshua airport), Castries City (St Lucia – Charles airport), Martinique, British Virgin Islands

Transportation Economics

The market for and economics of the freight ship industry depends on offering the lowest transportation cost per ton-nautical-mile (bulk freight) or lowest cost per unit-of-volume-nautical-mile (container freight). Compared to ships, long-distance commercial freight aircraft carry a comparative miniscule unit-of-volume per aircraft or a comparative miniscule unit-of-weight per aircraft, at premium prices and superfast delivery. Fuel cost constitutes the major cost item in commercial airline operation. Winged boats can carry a comparable payload between coastal airports as commercial aircraft while consuming less than 40 percent of the fuel, resulting in crew cost becoming more prominent.

Winged boats can operate at speeds of 100 kilometers per hour (53 knots) to over 400 kilometers per hour (216 knots) while being propelled by aeronautical engines, with the lower speed being competitive over short distances over water. The economics of long distance operation would require larger vehicles capable of extended range (1,000 to 5,000 kilometers) and travelling at much greater speed while carrying greater payload. Reducing capital cost per vehicle requires maximizing vehicle production of winged boats built to operate between both coastal paved runways, seaplane water runways as well as the combination of these runways.

Market Niches

Entrepreneurs in South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia are seeking to develop winged boats and each has a domestic market where their vehicles could provide service and attract international customers. South Korea has a suitable route between Inchon (Seoul) and the Island of Jeju and a manufacturer (Aron) testing Type-B Wing-in-Ground (WIG) winged boats. Malaysia and Singapore have local developers of winged boats and routes on the western region (Penang – Phuket) and eastern region (Singapore – Kuala Terengganu – Sabah triangle). Australia has local developers of winged boat technology and several major routes in eastern Australia.

Service Regions

Tasman Sea: Eastern Australia and New Zealand are located on either side of the Tasman Sea with suitable major coastal airports at Wellington, Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney with smaller suitable coastal airports located at Hobart, Devonport, Cairns and Townsville. It may be possible to extend service to Darwin and to Adelaide using Type B winged boats.

Arabian Sea and The Gulf: Goa (India) may serve as the hub for links between coastal airports such as Goa – Juhu (Mumbai), Goa – Male (Maldives), Goa – Muscat – Doha – Bahrain, Goa – East African Islands (Reunion, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, Zanzibar), Goa – Mombasa, Mombasa – East African Islands. 

Sulu Sea and East Indies: There are several coastal airports located around the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia with service between most of these airports using Type B winged boats. Depending on future development of Type B winged boat technology, it may be possible to develop a ‘flight path’ at 150 meters elevation to and from Manila Airport, Changi (Singapore) Airport and several other coastal airports around Malaysia and Indonesia.

East Asia: There are numerous coastal airports in this region, in Malaysia and Indonesia with major coastal airports at Singapore (Changi), Kuala Terengganu, Sabah, Manila, Hong Kong and Macau. Future Type B winged boats could ‘fly-sail’ into coastal airports at Singapore and Manila. International service would include Hong Kong – Singapore, Hong – Kong – Manila, Hong Kong – Inchon, Hong Kong – Osaka as well as direct service on Manila – Singapore, Manila – Inchon and Manila – Osaka links.

Western Canadian Straits: Coastal airports in Canada’s Pacific region would allow for Type B winged boats to provide future service between Vancouver and communities on Vancouver Islands and north of Vancouver Island.

Mediterranean Region: Domestic service would be possible between coastal airports of Spain (Mallorca – Barcelona), France (Nice – Corsica) and Italy (Genoa – Rome – Palermo).


Winged boats will have to climb to an elevation that places them above the highest points of the largest ships, so as to gain easy access to and from coastal airports. Such operation requires Type B Wing-in-Ground effect vessels

Some winged boats of 20-passengers capacity can offer a smooth ride as they ‘fly-sail’ at three meters above waves of four meters. Research indicates that future large-scale winged boats with extended-length ‘reverse-delta’ wings of 40 meters (130 feet) chord could ‘fly-sail’ at an elevation of 10 meters (33 feet) above seawater at speeds in excess of 200 kilometers (125 miles) per hour

For propulsion, winged boats could use proven aeronautical engines and proven automotive engines that drive aeronautical propellers

The vessels may have to be designed so as to ‘fly-sail’ over extended distances at an elevation that is above low level buildings and landscape between the ocean and coastal airports at locations such as Los Angeles, Manila, Singapore, Mumbai (Juhu airport), Caracas, Mombasa and several other coastal airports where special ‘flight paths’ will need to be established

While ‘Wingship’ of South Korea offers and operating range of 800 kilometers for their 50-seat vessel, they will likely have to develop a Type B version capable of operating over greatly extended distances.

There may be ready markets for Type B vessels in many countries on domestic routes such as Mumbai – Goa (India), Inchon – Jeju (South Korea), Nice – Corsica (France), Genoa – Rome – Palermo (Italy), Mallorca – Barcelona (Spain), Auckland – Wellington (New Zealand), Sydney – Brisbane (Australia), Los Angeles – Honolulu (USA), Vancouver – Courtney (Canada), Penang – Langkawi (Malaysia), Surabaya – Kuta (Indonesia),

There may be application for large, extended range Type B vessels on major international routes such as Singapore – Hong Kong, Sydney – Auckland, Hong Kong – Osaka, Hong Kong – Inchon, Hong Kong – Manila, Goa – Mombasa, Goa – Muscat, Hong Kong – Honolulu – Los Angeles, Boston – Tangier, Boston – Reykjavik

Some coastal airports may be modified to also serve Type A winged boats (‘fly-sail’ elevation between 25 percent of wing chord and 40 percent of wingspan) by building gently sloping ramps between runway and water surface

Development of suitable Type B vessels plus flight just above water surface, may be several years into the future.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.