Seaplane goes beyond Fantasy Island

Dornier Seawings - luxury planes market
Seaplanes just a toy for the ultra-wealthy?   

The seaplane may have faded from view after its burst of fame during the heyday of the TV show Fantasy Island, but it's still a favorite among the super-rich.

"It very efficiently links sea with the land," noted Conrado Dornier, chairman at Dornier Seawings, which was founded by his grandfather with Count Von Zeppelin, who was a German general and founder of the Zeppelin airship company, to champion the idea of "flying boats."

Dornier's seaplane may not have been "the plane, the plane" of the opening credits of the TV show Fantasy Island, which ran 1977-1984 — that was a Grummon Widgeon seaplane — but it's still got plenty of cachet.

The price tag, set at around $7 million, is relatively reasonable for a private jet, which can run anywhere from around $3 million to $90 million, not including Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal's purchase of an Airbus A380 for personal use at a cost estimated upward of $300 million.

Having an air-yacht can be a notch in the belt of the ultra-rich, particularly those with their own islands, but on the sidelines of the Singapore Air Show, Dornier noted that not all of the demand is luxurious.

"Basically, it's a work horse. It's a Jeep vehicle on the surface," Dornier told CNBC. "It has a plethora of good uses, from medical evacuation to border patrol."

Dornier Seawings' main market is in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, but the company is also eyeing the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, essentially anywhere with strings of islands.

Dornier said that as of Wednesday morning, the company had landed 10 commitments at the airshow, with orders coming from the U.S., Nigeria, Greece and archipelago Indonesia.

He also noted strong demand from China; Dornier Seawings' sales brochures are printed with both English and Chinese descriptions.

"We are getting a lot of demand from the Chinese," Dornier said. "We are here at the airshow [and] we are talking massive deals. [We are] very, very positively surprised at how massive this is."

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—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1