Testing the LS33W AirFish in Second Life

Taking a prototype LS33W AirFish out for a test. Finish and colours are not representative of the production version

As is probably clear to regular readers of this blog, I’m a fan of craft built by Ape Piaggio. I played a (minor) role in the development of her Little Bee tender-style speed boat (which you can read about here), and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been acting as a test pilot / CTD (that’s “crash test dummy” for the uninitiated 🙂 ) for Ape’s newest vehicle: the still in development LS33W AirFish.

Based on the WigetWorks AF8-001, the AirFish is  a ground effect vehicle. This is a type of craft designed to attain sustained flight over a level surface (usually water) by making use of ground effect, the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface over which it is travelling. another term for this type of vehicle is wing-in-ground effect (WIG), and it is the terminology generally used when referring to the AirFish and its physical world progenitor.

An overhead view of the AirFish

I confess, when Ape first told me she was developing the AirFish, I wasn’t convinced. We have high-performance boats in SL; we have aircraft; we have hovercraft; is a WIG vehicle likely to be popular? Well, on the strengths of having been testing this vehicle and seeing first hand the way Ape is both accepting feedback to tweak and improve it, and adding new features along the way – I can say it’s a heck of a lot of fun!

I’m not going to go into specifics about the AirFish here – I’ll save that for an in-depth review when it goes on sale (which might not be for a little while yet, as there is still much work to be done). What I will say is that the AirFish offers a lot to both motor boat fans and flying enthusiasts. On the water, it handles like a conventional boat and can happily motor around using its impellers. In doing so, it’s pretty manoeuvrable but not particularly fast (on-the-water speed isn’t the point). However, switch to the two rear-facing propellers (driven in the AF8-001 by a conventional V8 car engine!), and the AirFish comes into its own  – a fast, manoeuvrable craft able to pass over water and low-lying, relatively flat terrain at speed and with ease.

Airborne over water…

Once of the nice touches Ape has added – based on my own feedback, if I might toot my own horn a little – is a configurable set of flight controls. These allow pilots / driver to either use a standard “boat” layout to keyboard controls with the arrow keys / WASD for left/right and throttle up/down and vehicle pitch set via the PAGE keys. Or, for those used to flight controls, the arrow keys can be used for left / right and pitch up / down, with the PAGE keys used for adjusting the throttle.

Nor is the AirFish restricted to the water – a retractable undercarriage can be deployed to allow it climb up (and down) seaplane ramps, although it is not designed for trying to get airborne from a runway, and the AirFish is intentionally configured to prevent this: lowering the undercarriage locks it into its “taxi” mode.

I’ll have much more to say about the AirFish when it is officially released. In the meantime, those wishing to try a demonstration version can do so at the FoilBourne headquarters in-world, and as a further teaser, I’ll leave you with a short video of some of my trial runs testing the craft. Note that the vehicle finish and colours in both the images here and in the video are not representative of the production version’s finish or colours.

Note: this blog post and film produced and published with Ape’s approval.

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6 thoughts on “Testing the LS33W AirFish in Second Life

  1. “Bat-Boat Racing”

    “The scandals of the past few years have at last moved the yachting world to concerted action in regard to “bat” boat racing.”

    “We have been treated to the spectacle of what are practically keeled racing-planes driven a clear five foot or more above the water, and only eased down to touch their so-called “native element” as they near the line. Judges and starters have been conveniently blind to this absurdity, but the public demonstration off St. Catherine’s Light at the Autumn Regattas has borne ample, if tardy, fruit. In future the “bat” is to be a boat, and the long-unheeded demand of the true sportsman for “no daylight under mid-keel in smooth water” is in a fair way to be conceded. The new rule severely restricts plane area and lift alike. The gas compartments are permitted both fore and aft, as in the old type, but the water-ballast central tank is rendered obligatory. These things work, if not for perfection, at least for the evolution of a sane and wholesome waterborne cruiser. The type of rudder is unaffected by the new rules, so we may expect to see the Long-Davidson make (the patent on which has just expired) come largely into use henceforward, though the strain on the sternpost in turning at speeds over forty miles an hour is admittedly very severe. But bat-boat racing has a great future before it.”

    R. Kipling, 1905.

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  2. It is fun and something different than the other vehicles in SL, I sat on it with Ape a number of times in the past weeks and we traveled around together 🙂 I liked the video too (psst there is a small typo at 1:28)

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    1. :). I spotted the typo about 2 minutes after making the video public after running it multiple times in the editor and whilst the video was unlisted on YT 😦 . It’s already corrected for any follow-up that may come. Goes to show that at times the brain reads what it thinks it has typed, not necessarily what is there … 😦

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