All-electric seagliders to link Whangārei with Auckland
Ocean Flyer, the NZ company committed to operating all-electric seagliders to connect regional centres around the country, will mark the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with Northport and Northland regional economic development agency Northland Inc at an event at Marsden Cove Marina on 16 June. The agreements could make Whangārei the first destination in its network.
The agreement with Northport covers the design and development of the infrastructure needed to operate an Ocean Flyer service from Whangārei. Northland Inc will support Ocean Flyer and Northport in engagement with the community, local authorities and businesses, helping Ocean Flyer to establish operations and generate benefits for the Northland region.
A seaglider is a new mode of transport that will float, foil and fly. It travels at about 10 metres above the waves and uses a phenomenon called in-ground effect to reduce drag and increase range. Ocean Flyer is importing 25 seagliders made by United States firm REGENT. The first tranche of five will arrive in New Zealand by 2026.
The Ocean Flyer route network will ultimately link coastal centres like Whangarei with Auckland. Chief executive Shah Aslam said it will provide improved connections between Auckland and regional New Zealand that are fast, affordable and sustainable.
“We’ve seen in recent times the havoc that bad weather can create with our transport infrastructure,” he said. “Northland wasn’t the only region to have been cut off completely by road and rail. Our seaglider connections will add an important extra layer of robust connectivity to New Zealand’s transport infrastructure.”
“Better connections enable regional economic development which, in turn, leads to greater economic prosperity and wellbeing through better access to services and facilities,” Mr Aslam said. “Both Northport and Northland Inc understand this perfectly, having been leading the call for enhanced transport links between Northland and Auckland for many years.”
The electric seagliders will cost considerably less to operate than a comparable aircraft, resulting in an affordable seat price
“Better connectivity leads to improved productivity generating prosperity and community wellbeing”, said Mr Aslam.
Ocean Flyer’s investment in Northland extends beyond including Whangārei in its route network. It envisages a headquarters, a training centre and a seaglider haul-out and maintenance facility elsewhere in the area.
Northland Inc chief executive Paul Linton said a new connection would offer Northland residents and businesses fast and affordable travel options not currently available by air, and which would otherwise involve lengthy road journeys that emit greenhouse gasses.
“Such a service would improve supply chains, reduce downtime in businesses and enhance efficiency and productivity without adding to road congestion or greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Linton said.
The sea gliders will be able to operate in most conditions,” Mr Aslam said. “Our advanced avionics and the fact that we’ll be only a few metres above the surface of the water mean that we’d be able to operate in conditions that frequently impact flights between Whangarei and Auckland.”
Ocean Flyer’s seagliders will be regulated and certified by Maritime New Zealand. The company has produced a series of videos, available on its website, that address commonly-asked questions about seaglider technology and safety.
Ocean Flyer plans to start operations with REGENT’S 12-seater Viceroy model. This has 12 electric motors and a crew of two pilots. At a later stage it will introduce 10 Monarch vehicles, each with 100 seats.
Northport chief executive Jon Moore said the service Ocean Flyer was proposing meshed perfectly with Northport’s objective of providing better infrastructure and services for Northland.
“We have always played an important role in enhancing Northland’s connectivity and economic resilience,” Mr Moore said. “This Ocean Flyer initiative is bold and innovative. Like us, they are inspired by a vision of what is possible. A Vision for Growth. We are delighted to do everything we can to help the company realise these ambitions and make Whangārei one of the first destinations in its network.”
Northport terminal facilities manager Greg Blomfield joined the Ocean Flyer team at the launch of REGENT’s first full-size seaglider in the United States in April.
Ocean Flyer was founded by Mr Aslam, who owns Air Napier, and former Royal New Zealand Air Force chief John Hamilton. The company considered using electric planes but chose seagliders because they would be certified to operate much earlier. The infrastructure was also more affordable, requiring a terminal space on the coast with a pontoon rather than an airport, and it was more efficient to operate at 10 metres above the water than having to fly up to 6,000 metres.
About Ocean Flyer (Operator)
Ocean Flyer signed a historic $700m agreement in April 2022 with REGENT to bring 25 seagliders to New Zealand. Ocean Flyer is the first seaglider-only company set up in the world to bring sustainable, fully electric, fast, affordable and comfortable new mode for mass public transport. Ocean Flyer is committed to connecting communities across the motu, tackling climate change, and building a more resilient and affordable transport network for everyone.
For more information, visit www.oceanflyer.co.nz
About Northland Inc
Northland Inc is Te Tai Tokerau Northland’s Economic Development Agency. As a council-controlled organisation, their work encompasses the Regional Tourism Organisation and central government’s Regional Business Partner Network, as well a range of initiatives designed to deliver economic and social benefits across the Northland region.
For more information, visit https://www.northlandnz.com/
Northport, situated at Marsden Point at the mouth of Whangarei Harbour, is New Zealand’s northernmost deep-water port. It is a flexible facility catering for large, multi-purpose vessels and full cargo handling facilities are available from its 570-metre linear berth.
Logs, woodchip and processed timber for export comprise the bulk of cargo handled by the port. Recent investment in container handling equipment has seen an uptake in coastal and international container trade. Other export items include kiwifruit, dairy products and manufactured goods. Imports are an important part of Northport’s business and include fertiliser, gypsum, coal and palm kernel.
For further information, please contact:
M: 021 1777 110