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Flarecraft

      8/15/2000

Flarecraft

It flies but it's not a plane. It floats but it’s not a boat. It's called the Flarecraft and it is one of a new breed of hybrid craft known as “wing in ground effect” vehicles. Skimming along just above the surface of the water, the Flarecraft relies on the cushion of high-pressure air that forms below its stubby wings. This allows the craft to skate along at an altitude of a few feet with very little drag.

Ground effect occurs at an altitude within about 1/3 to 1/2 of a craft's wingspan. Here the air rushing beneath the wings slows down, leading to the pressure beneath the wings building up, in turn producing lift.

A ground effect craft is the best of both the airborne and nautical worlds. It performs better than a plane because there is less turbulence to create drag on the wings and it's quicker and more efficient than a boat because there is no water friction. The Flarecraft is a 5-seater. It is already flying in Los Angeles, Miami and St Louis, but its makers envisage its biggest market will be as a small, quick commuter, ferrying tourists to and from resort islands. Other Wing-in-Ground Effect vehicles are currently being developed in Australia and Germany.


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