Most Common Airboat Issues

When you think about it, there are times when specialty boats are very important. For example, if you are part of a search and rescue team looking through a boggy area that is more water and weeds than dry land but won't support a real boat, what can you use?

A few years ago, there was a TV show that worked with airboats. Airboats are routinely used in the Everglades and other southern swamps because they are made for that type of environment.

The routine airboat uses the same type of base craft, although the materials may differ.

For example, some years ago, the base craft of choice was the 12-foot (up to about 16 feet) riveted aluminum pram. They were lightweight, needed little maintenance, since they were being used in an environment that primarily freshwater and practically no draft.

The only problem with the riveted aluminum pram was how its hull pieces remained in place. They were riveted in place and it didn't take much of a beating as the boats literally flew over bogs, sandbars, logs and then into long stretches of open water before the rivets began to back out and holes were opened along the seams.

It really wouldn't do to for a search and rescue crew to be moving along only to find their craft beginning to fill with water as airboats, which do not have to plane since they are pushed along at high speed and need to use as much surface area of the hull as available. Imagine how embarrassing it would have been for an airboat crew to find that they were suddenly up to the gunwales in water. Granted, the engine likely would have kept running, if the gasoline supply was high enough, but, the wildly spinning propeller blade would soon be pushing water and would then stop.

So, the airboat changed boating technology with the times. They began using reinforced fiberglass pram-style shells but these had their problems, as well. Even reinforced fiberglass can be damaged by slamming into the wrong item the wrong way. For example, say an airboat is running along at high speed and the pilot sees something partially submerged ahead, such as a rock. Even a glancing blow at the wrong angle can break the fiberglass material or damage it so that the boat will need repairs and be out of action for some time and those repairs are not inexpensive.

So, what was the answer? It's really quite simple, really, but it has only been available since the materials industry has been able to weld aluminum panels into place. When you have a smooth-bottomed pram-style boat that has somewhat rounded seams, you have the ideal platform on which to place the engine, seats and mechanical parts for a successful airboat base. The rest of the boat is pretty straightforward as it consists of the pilot or skipper's seat, airplane engine (chainsaw or scooter any engine that's small enough to package into an area behind and below the captain's raised seat); the safety cage assembly and the rudder and propeller.

Once you have that type of craft, you are ready to go. That's not to say the other craft won't work in different environments because they will, but for a boggy environment either the welded aluminum pram or an ABS plastic-reinforced pram would also work.