Richard Branson and Virgin debut new underwater plane

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Richard Branson and Virgin debut new underwater plane

Postby BORG » 03 Feb 2010, 13:16

Richard Branson and Virgin debut new underwater plane

by By Blake Ellis, staff reporter
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
provided by
CNN

Virgin unveiled the latest addition to Richard Branson's luxury fleet on Friday: an underwater plane that will fly riders into the depths of the Caribbean Sea.

Guests on Necker Island, a retreat in the British Virgin Islands, will be able to dive underwater in a submarine dubbed the Necker Nymph for $25,000 a week. But that's only after shelling out around $300,000 for a one-week stay on Necker, the private island owned by billionaire and Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson.

Beginning on Feb. 20, two riders and a pilot will be able to take the plunge from land, or from a boat. The underwater plane uses the downward pressure on its wings to fly through the water for up to two hours at a time, while an open cockpit will give riders a 360-degree view.

The Necker Nymph's typical speed is 2 to 5 nautical miles per hour and it can dive more than 100 feet, said Karen Hawkes, a spokeswoman for Hawkes Ocean Technologies, the company that designed the Nymph.

A statement released Friday by Virgin Limited Edition, the luxury arm of Virgin Hotels, described the Nymph's launch like a plane's takeoff. "Gliding on the water's surface like an aeroplane on a runway, one of the three pilots will operate the joystick to smoothly dive down."

Vacationers will be able to fly the Necker Nymph while chartering the Necker Belle, Branson's 105-foot yacht, or the submarine can be launched from shore. Necker Belle is rented out to guests for $88,000 a week, bringing the full Necker Island experience to more than $400,000 per week.

Riders must follow SCUBA procedures and be trained or accompanied by a certified pilot before entering the underwater plane. SCUBA tanks are mounted in the submarine and passengers must wear masks while underwater, said Hawkes.

The Necker Nymph claims "near-zero" environmental impact because its "positive buoyancy prevents the sub from landing on a reef, and its low light and noise emissions ensure the fragile ocean ecosystems remain undisturbed," Virgin said.

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