In a wide-ranging discussion on the final day of the Global Superyacht Forum 2015 covering the similarities between the superyacht and private aviation sectors, delegates were also treated to a glimpse of the new Seastar flying boat – an amphibious aircraft with exciting potential as a yacht tender.
Introduced by superyacht owner Conrado Dornier, chairman of Dornier Seawings, the Seastar offers space for up to ten guests in a luxury cabin plus two flight crew for a list price of US$7 million, with estimated running costs of just US$500 per hour. With a cruise speed of 180 knots, a range of 1,500km and composite construction negating the corrosive effects of water-borne operations, the Seastar is already showing its appeal. “We have already got orders from some very noticeable yacht owners,” Dornier confirms. The beauty of the Seastar is that it can land near the yacht with final transfer being undertaken by tender, negating the need for a helipad and the associated regulatory requirements on board.
Dornier’s family name is synonymous with the golden age of flying boats, which were a common sight until falling out of fashion after the Second World War. Indeed, the Dornier Do S – developed in 1929 – was perhaps the first example of a flying yacht with a luxury interior, designed and built for the founder of Chris Craft, Chris Smith.
It was the perfect introduction to a wider discussion about the superyacht of the skies – the private jet – and the striking parallels between private jet design and management and the superyacht sector. Robert Baltus of Executive Jet Management (NetJets) was quick to point out that, aside from differing regulatory requirements, you could essentially interchange the words ‘yacht’ and ‘jet’.
Similarly, Jim Dixon – head of aviation design at Andrew Winch Designs – explained how the process of designing luxury jets has become closer and closer to the process of creating yachts, albeit with one proviso. “A superyacht is very much an emotional decision,” he explained. “Aircraft are conversely almost the opposite – they are a business asset.” However, it is clear that the boundaries between the two are blurring as owners who possess both a yacht and a jet look to create a seamless experience and, in some cases, to match interior style and exterior livery between yacht and jet.
As the superyacht industry looks at ways to introduce new clients to yacht ownership, tapping into the private jet market is often seen as a potentially rich vein. The last word, however, fell to Dornier who explained his own rationale for introducing a flying tender that does not rely on having acres of deck space. “I’m a rare breed,” he concluded, “in that I love sailing yachts, and I prefer smaller superyachts in order to be able to access the best spots. Anyway, smaller is better because otherwise there is too much gin between the water and yourself…”