Water-skimming plane

Chinese scientists have developed a "Wing-In-Ground" (WIG) aircraft which can fly long distances just a few feet above the sea surface, state media said on Wednesday.

The plane can fly as low as half a meter (1 ft 7 ins) off the surface, hitting speeds of up to 180 miles per hour and can carry up to 4 tons on takeoff.

"It's as safe as ships, although five or six times faster, and it can carry much more weight than ordinary planes while costing half as much and using half as much fuel" associate professor Xu Zhengyu, vice-president of the research team at Tongji University in Shanghai, was quoted as saying.

Wing In Ground effect refers to the reduction in drag experienced by an aircraft as it approaches a height approximately twice a wingspan's length off the ground or other level surface such as the sea.

"Taking advantage of the aerodynamics of the ground effect, which adds extra lift when flying at very low altitudes, the aircraft can fly close to the water's surface," the China Daily said.

Source: msnbc.msn.comAdded: 31 August 2007