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Flying it at the Monaco Yacht Show

Posted on Thursday, 3 October 2013
Flying it at the Monaco Yacht ShowThe Monaco Yacht Show has been and gone for another year but the fantastical stories will linger for weeks to come as it offers a tiny peek into the world of the super rich and their lifestyles.

In previous years we have encountered mosaicked dance floors that sink into swimming pools by day, jet packs and hoover crafts let alone the more mundane matching helicopters and on board spas. From the worlds most luxurious interiors to the worlds most expensive on board toys the Monaco yacht show is the place where we get to see and hear about the amazing gadgets available to those with a budget.

2013 was no different and this year saw the first personal underwater aeroplanes. These are not new devices, they have been designed and used in the oil and gas industry exploration but it is the first time that they are being offered as a consumer product to the 'general' public. A rather select few admittedly but on general release as we speak.

So when is a plane a plane and not a submarine I hear you ask? My thoughts exactly, and it doesn't look entirely dissimilar from a small submarine except for its 8.8ft wide wings. Apparently the Super Falcon 'flies' underwater by creating 'downward lift' rather than diving like a normal submarine.

It can stay positively buoyant while travelling at speeds up to 5 knots and if the engines switch off, fail or it crashes then it simply floats back to the surface which sounds an awful lot easier and safer than a traditional submarine, which are notorious for sinking to the sea bed floor in a crisis as anyone up to date on their disaster movies knows.

Which begs the question how do you learn how to 'fly' one of these underwater planes, what are the license requirements and who is regulating it? The answers are all a bit vague as the technology is so new the answers have largely yet to be written when it comes to regulatory issues.

Lessons however are covered by the inventor himself, Graham Hawkes, at a cost of €15,000 for three day training programme which results in a certificate issued by Hawkes himself who admits, "the rules and regulations are a little bit murky, we are right in that era of starting up something so new that nobody knows what needs to be done".

The inventor was not alone at the Monaco Yacht Show in promoting underwater vehicles, there were two other submarine companies there for the first time. However he does claim to be different in so much as the Super Falcon is very quiet and is designed to expose the pilot to marine life rather than frighten it away.

"The Super Falcon is built for incredible new encounters, and we are having them. Most people have never been able to experience anything like it before."

Hence the gossip at this years yacht show was not just how much is Rupert Murdoch's personal yacht going to sell for but who has bought one of the underwater planes. Reportedly Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, venture capitalist Thomas Perkins and Sir Richard Branson who is also involved in the company with the Deep Sea Challenge. King Abdullah II of Jordan hired one for 6 weeks to the delight of local dignitaries and schoolchildren, apparently.

At a cost of approximately $1.7 million they are not your everyday accessory even for the super rich but with charter options at $10,000 per day we may well be bumping into more and more of them in the worlds oceans. So keep your goggles clear and your glass bottomed boat trip booked, you might just see more than a parrot fish on next years holiday you might catch a glimpse of Richard Branson's blond beard as he 'flies by'.

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