Though use scenarios of most next-generation electrical advanced air mobility (AAM) planes focus on urban air taxi or inter-city travel, Boston-based Regent Craft is looking to revolutionize transport between the islands of Hawaii with its emissions-free seaglider aircraft.
Regent recently signed a partnership with public and private actors to bring non-polluting and sustainable AAM air transport to Hawaii. The latest move in that involves a link-up with Mokulele Airlines to operate Regent’s 12-passenger Viceroy seagliders on its regular flights between the 10 inner-island destinations it serves in Hawaii. Development of that fleet could feasibly rework transport flows around the archipelago, especially to and from smaller islands like Lanai and Molokai, which are accessible by air only from Maui and Oahu.
The sleek next-generation AAM tech of Regent craft will also update the small, twin-engine plane fleet with which Mokulele – a Southern Airways unit – transports a handful of passengers between Hawaii’s islands at a time. Indeed, given the relatively short distances of its routes, the seagliders will permit Mokulele to operate what may feel like extended inner-city air taxi services around the archipelago – with two major differences.
The first is that in contrast to most AAM, Regent seagliders won’t take off and land vertically, but rather like a traditional, horizontal thrust sea plane. Meanwhile, once it attains necessary velocity, the vehicle’s foil will lift it to where it can float upon a cushion of high-pressure air trapped between the wings and the water 10 to 30 feet surface below, a so-called “ground effect” allowing faster and more efficient travel. Regent – a company in venture capitalist Mark Cuban’s network – has been working on similar “air ferry” service across the English Channel with UK partner Brittany Ferries.
In May, Regent committed to making a strategic investment in Hawaiian Airlines, which is expected to become the first US carrier to incorporate the 100-person capacity electric Monarch seaglider in its fleet. Though part of its same effort to bring update air travel to and around Hawaii, the two deals will involve different parameters.
The partnership with Mokulele aims to initiate service of the Viceroy – which is expected to have an initial range of 180 miles – in 2025. Presumably longer flights of Monarch seagliders by Hawaiian Airlines is expected for 2028.
But both, says Regent CEO Billy Thalheimer, seek to add state-of-the-art, non-polluting AAM aircraft to the mix of transport assets in Hawaii, while remaining attentive to local concerns about modernization plans that have previously tended to steamroll cultural and environmental preservation priorities.
“The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive and the opportunity to build a seaglider network for Hawai‘i is a dream come true,” he said. “We’re thrilled to help push the boundaries of innovation in clean transportation for the state… The feasibility study continues our commitment to engage with local communities, civic organizations, and all appropriate private and public sectors leaders to understand how seagliders can help improve the daily lives of the residents.”