Branson Unveils Underwater Plane

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Virgin

Richard Branson, the self-made billionaire of Virgin fame, has yet another new toy to play with: an underwater plane.

Less than two months after the debut of the world's first spaceship designed to let tourists experience the final frontier firsthand, the much-anticipated VSS Enterprise, comes the announcement of the Necker Nymph, a 3-person submarine designed to explore watery depths.

Less than two months after the debut of the world's first spaceship designed to let tourists experience the final frontier firsthand, the much-anticipated VSS Enterprise, comes the announcement of the Necker Nymph, a 3-person submarine designed to explore watery depths.

The winged submarine, the first of its kind, was specially designed for Branson by Hawkes Ocean Technologies, and is being billed as an underwater aircraft.

"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, and the thrilling experience begins. Uncover ancient shipwrecks, fly side-by-side with dolphins, or spyhop with whales; the options are endless," Virgin Limited Edition enthuses in their official press release.

The submarine is only available to visitors staying on Necker Island, Branson's private isle, or those chartering the Necker Belle, Branson's new 105-foot yacht that prices out at $88,000 per week. The sub will set you back $25,000 for a full weeklong rental, but one-time trips from the shore are also available.

Those who do dive deep will glide through the water 130 feet below the surface, and take in panoramic views, thanks to individual open cockpits. The dives, which can last up to two hours, will be accompanied by a certified pilot, and require all guests to follow standard SCUBA procedures. Branson hopes to refine the ship in the future, enabling it to explore depths up to 35,000 feet.

"The Nymph is an entirely new class of vehicle for us-think of a sleek convertible under water," Hawkes Ocean Technologies spokeswoman Karen Hawkes told London's Daily Mail on January 29th. "It is different from our other submersibles because it was specifically designed to dive to scuba depths in tropical waters."

Keeping in line with Branson's penchant for environmental safety, the sub has "near-zero environmental impact." The Necker Nymph uses a downward "lift", instead of traditional ballast, to sink into the water, creating positive buoyancy, which prevents the craft from landing on underwater frailties, like reefs. The ship also emits low levels of light and noise, ensuring that ocean ecosystems remain intact.

The Necker Nymph is expected to reach its island home sometime mid-March, adding yet another page to Branson's already impressive portfolio, which includes an airline, a record label, and a mobile phone company.

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