Our History and Technology...
Wing-in-ground-effect R&D at Seair Craft began in 1986 with a requirement for a surface-skimming small craft that would provide maximum ride comfort and efficiency at high speeds. Seair founder Peter Longwood commissioned a technical survey by The X-Aero Company to study the feasibility of such craft. This study compared the pros and cons, and potential efficiency of various high speed marine vehicles. Catamarans, tunnel hulls, hydroplanes, deep V's, hydrofoils, hovercraft, airboats, SES craft and various hybrids were considered. The study concluded that an air cushion vehicle based on wing-in-ground-effect technology would have the best chance of satisfying the given requirements. WIG’s were shown to share many of the unique characteristics of hovercraft, hydrofoils, and airboats, but theoretically had the potential to excel in some areas---chiefly, the ability to maintain a smoother ride over rougher waves at higher speeds. WIG’s also had the potential for much greater fuel economy than other types.
Alexander Lippisch* built one of the world's first WIG's in the U.S. in the early 1960's, but the majority of serious WIG development has historically taken place in Germany* and Russia*. In other parts of the world the handful of WIG research programs that existed through the late 1970's were generally of a more academic nature without full-scale test vehicles. By the mid-1980's, most interest in WIG technology fell dormant outside of the Soviet Union. The X-Aero study pointed out that throughout the ’60’s and ‘70’s WIG technology had failed to find its niche. Of the several dozen WIG craft built up to that time, few had reached even limited production status. In fact, until the early 1990’s all WIG’s built outside of the Soviet Union were prototypes or proof-of-concept research craft. Several of these prototypes were direct copies or minor variations of the 1960’s Lippisch concept. Some were simply misguided "design-by-guess" attempts resulting in expensive failures.
The X-Aero study concluded that to make WIG's a viable transportation alternative one must be able to reliably design practical, mission-oriented craft without relying on expensive trial and error testing of multiple full-scale prototypes. When Longwood commissioned the study in the mid-1980’s unclassified technical information applicable to WIG design was very hard to come by. Published reports consisted mostly of general ground effect theory and academic studies of a few generic WIG concepts. Frustrated by the apparent lack of practical WIG technology in the U.S., Seair embarked on a long-term R&D program to build useful civilian WIG design capability from scratch.
Seair's "Building Block Approach" to acquiring WIG know-how is illustrated symbolically below. Research began with reviews of all existing WIG craft and published technical data to help formulate practical design requirements for viable WIG's. This was followed by experimental and computational work, building capability for full-scale craft designs.
The experimental phase began with studying fundamental WIG aerodynamics and hydrodynamics.
Lessons learned with wind tunnel and hull models were later extended to flight testing with large-scale radio-controlled models.
Test data were used to derive and calibrate computational methods and simulations.
Such prediction capability allows a systematic design approach and more accurate WIG conceptual design studies for specific applications. After spending several years doing our "homework", the engineering tools, methods, and data have been used to do more detailed design work on small WIG craft for personal transportation and recreation.
Material on this website is copyrighted ©2000 by C.P.Nelson, Seair Craft Inc.
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