Billabong Clipper Seaplane Arrives in Honolulu

posted by / News / January 20, 2006

In a spectacular sight not seen in decades, the Billabong Clipper seaplane took flight from the warm waters of Honolulu’s Keehi Lagoon today and roared past Waikiki and Diamond Head, vividly recalling the golden era of “Flying Boat” aviation and publicly announcing an ongoing adventure travel project partnership between Billabong and Hawaiian Airlines.

After over a year of development, the Billabong Clipper project combines a 50-year-old military seaplane with the latest in high-tech gear and the world’s best surfers in a unique expeditionary approach to seeking out the most remote wave-riding destinations on the planet. The Grumman G-111 “Albatross” amphibian is {{{62}}} feet long, features a 96 foot wingspan and a range of over 2500 miles. In its current configuration it seats up to 13 along with over a ton of cargo including a 15-foot Zodiac with {{{Honda}}} outboard and a rack for dozens of surfboards and surf equipment. The aircraft’s painstaking refurbishment was completed in California and Arizona and it recently completed the 2200 nautical mile, 15-hour transit from the West Coast to the Hawaiian Islands.

Today’s mid-Pacific unveiling of the Billabong Clipper occurred off a dock adjacent to Honolulu International Airport, virtually the same spot where Hawaiian Airlines began its service to neighbor islands with a pair of seaplanes some 76 years ago. With the flying boat moored feet away, Hawaiian Airlines President Mark Dunkerley and Billabong’s Vice President of Marketing Graham Stapelberg presented an up-close look at the Billabong Clipper aircraft and a project overview to assembled VIPs and select media. In a nod to the traditions of seaplane arrivals of glamorous “Clipper Era” of the 1930s, a Hawaiian band and hula dancers entertained attendees. Following the brief ceremony, the cream of Billabong’s global surf team boarded the aircraft and prepared for departure in a process sure to be repeated continually in the coming years.

Surfers taking part and taking off were three-time World Champion Andy Irons of Kauai, big wave and ASP tour legend Shane Dorian of the Big Island, top-rated women’s pro tour competitor Keala Kennelly of Kauai, rising star Jason Shibata of Oahu and big wave hero Mike Parsons of California. Dorian and Parsons have been named to the Billabong Clipper’s water operations staff, and will be actively involved in training with the aircraft in preparation for upcoming adventures to remote islands and atolls. The Clipper project will be based in Hawaii through much of this winter and will be visiting the Neighbor Islands in the coming weeks. Test flights in recent days have circled Oahu, Maui and Molokai.

The most commonly asked questions at today’s event focused on where the Billabong Clipper will be headed after its Hawaiian phase is completed. And no clear answers were divulged.

“We have a well-developed plan for our upcoming adventures with the Clipper, but I’m afraid the details are Classified information,” said Billabong’s Stapelberg with a smile. “We are fortunate to have Hawaiian Airlines supporting the project and as they have routes and aviation support facilities in Tahiti, Samoa and Australia, so you could perhaps use that as a rough outline. Though there could be a few stops on the way….”

For more information of the Billabong Clipper project, please visit the project website at www.BillabongClipper.com

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