For many years, people have been using airboats to travel across some parts the sea or river that normal boats can’t do. Airboats feature power from an aircraft-type propeller, from an aircraft or automotive engine. It also has a unique design and shape that differs them from other types of boats. Usually, we can find airboats in the Florida Everglades and the Mekong River and Mekong Delta to name a few. To learn more about airboats, there are some interesting facts about airboats that you might want to know.
Technology wise, airboats are actually old-school technology. Most of the airboat manufacturers are small companies, which are family businesses. However, people are still using it until today. Some popular functions include fishing and bowfishing, hunting, and most notably ecotourism. Despite its simplistic technology, there are a lot of fun facts about airboats that we can discover. So, let’s start and learn more about the amazing airboat from the list below.
Table of Contents
- 1. Alexander Graham Bell as The Man Behind the First Airboat
- 2. The First Airboat was Called “Ugly Duckling”
- 3. People Still Need Airboats to This Day
- 4. How Does an Airboat Works?
- 5. They Can Move on Land, Too!
- 6. It Can Reach a Maximum Speed of 130 mph
- 7. They Are Usually Made by Small Manufacturers
- 8. They Don’t Have Brakes
- 9. There are Lots of Accidents Related to Airboats
- 10. What does it Take to be an Airboat Operator?
- 11. Airboat Tours are Eco-Friendly
- 12. These Men Hold The Record for Longest Journey on an Airboat
- 13. There are a Lot of Airboat Races and Competitions
1. Alexander Graham Bell as The Man Behind the First Airboat
We have told you that airboats are not some highly-advanced tech that just came out recently. In fact, the history can be traced far back to the early 1900s. Back in 1905, a genius inventor by the name of Alexander Graham Bell patented the rights for airboats in his Nova Scotia labs. At the time, Graham Bell was particularly interested in trying out different designs for conventional boats. He then thought about taking out the propellers from the bottom part and making it sit somewhere on the boat.
Airboats have received awesome changes over the years. Even their name received a major upgrade. Before people settle on the name “airboat”, they are usually called “fan boats”. The term fan boat they used fan as the main source of power for the boat.
2. The First Airboat was Called “Ugly Duckling”
The first ever airboat in history was called the Ugly Duckling. Please bear in mind that it wasn’t because of the boat’s hideous appearance! The legendary airboat was used for testing and configuration purposes. The Ugly Duckling was a catamaran-type boat that used an aerial propeller. Due to the 2500-pound watercooler engine, the Ugly Duckling only has a maximum speed of four miles per hour.
Graham Bell knew that if he could work out on reducing the weight on the boat, the Ugly Duckling could reach a top speed of 40 miles an hour. That feat was accomplished by Santos Dumont in 1907. Back then, he built a similar version of an airboat that he dubbed the “Hydrofoil”.
3. People Still Need Airboats to This Day
Despite its aging presence, people still use airboats up until this very day. It’s really not surprising, because there are a lot of useful aspects that airboats present. In fact, there are some parts of the planet that we can reach only by using an airboat, such as the Florida Everglades. Due to the shallow surface of a river, it’s hard for traditional boats to pass through. That’s the reason why people are still using airboats until today! People still need to fish and hunt there, you know!
4. How Does an Airboat Works?
Because of their unique design and configuration, airboats generally work differently. You might even wonder how they work. The propeller located behind the airboat creates a force so powerful that it can move the boat to a certain direction. But to ensure that the propeller stays safe, there is a metal cage that usually protects them. It prevents debris, clothing, and even animals from damaging the propellers.
Steering the airboat is also essential! We can do it by forcing the air to pass across vertical rudders. It is important to note that there must be a forceful airflow if you want to move in a certain direction. Do you know that you can fly airboats too? It is fun and also fuel-efficient.
5. They Can Move on Land, Too!
Unlike conventional boats, airboats can also move on land. Their flat bottom parts allow them to easily move over the land. The main reason behind this awesome feat is the propeller’s positioning. The propeller has a form of propulsion that can work everywhere, thus pushing the airboat even on land. However, it’s important to note that airboats can only move slowly on land. They also can’t move on an uneven surface. If you want to experience a fun airboat ride, perhaps try riding them on ice!
6. It Can Reach a Maximum Speed of 130 mph
Modern airboats can cruise through the river at a very high speed. An average airboat can reach a top speed of 130 miles per hour or 209 kilometers per hour. The speed limit for each airboat depends on the type of fan and the horsepower of the engine equipped on the boat.
There is no official record for the fastest airboat on a river or sea. However, Stan Floyd (president of the American Airboats Corporation) holds the official land speed record of 47.76 miles per hour. The record was set on an International Dragway track in September of 1995.
7. They Are Usually Made by Small Manufacturers
As popular as airboats are, it’s astonishing to learn the fact that most airboat manufacturers are generally small family businesses. Pre-1950, you can see a lot of them produced by companies in France. Such manufacturers were Farman, De Lambert, and Rene Couzinet.
Nowadays, most airboats are made in the United States, although some countries like Russia, Italy, Finland, Japan, and Australia are still producing airboats, too. Diamondback Airboats is one of the world’s leading airboat manufacturers. They provided top notch new boats as well as pre-owned airboats that are available in excellent condition.
8. They Don’t Have Brakes
Driving an airboat is a skill that only certain people possess. You probably won’t realize it, but it is actually very challenging to operate airboats. They need to deal with different situations that can endanger the passengers while dealing with the fact that airboats do not have brakes. Yes, we’re going to repeat it one more time: airboats don’t have any brakes!
In some icy areas, operators may equip a braking system for their airboat to allow for a smoother experience. A small portion of airboats also use a clam-shell reversing device for braking as well as reversing for a very short distance. But generally, airboats never come with a brake. Therefore, they can’t travel in reverse. If they want to have that function, they will need to add a reversible propeller.
9. There are Lots of Accidents Related to Airboats
Traveling by airboats is always going to be risky. As we already know, airboats usually don’t have any braking system. That fact alone, combined with the uncertain condition of the river, increases the chance of injuries and accidents. In fact, the US Coast Guard was releasing a report that states about roughly three dozen injuries involving airboat passengers were recorded every year.
There are some notable cases involving airboat accidents. Previously, a 61-year-old man was killed during his airboat experience on the St. Johns River. The boat crashed into a concrete pylon. Florida also has a big share of airboat accidents. In recent years, airboat accidents alone have killed more than seven people as well as injuring dozens of others.
10. What does it Take to be an Airboat Operator?
The number of accidents from airboats alone is quite astonishing. Due to that reason alone, the Florida state is requiring all airboat operators or captains to have special licenses and proof of course completion that includes Proof of successful completion of boater safety education, commission-approved airboat operator course, and also proof of completion of CPR and first aid course.
When taking these courses, you’ll learn a lot of things like airboat orientation and maintenance, practical exercises, and how to operate a real airboat. To complete these courses, you can contact an approved course provider that the Florida state has listed.
11. Airboat Tours are Eco-Friendly
Everglades have a very delicate ecosystem. Its swamp is full of wildlife that lived close to the surface. It’s natural for people to raise some eyebrows regarding airboat tours and its impact on the environment. However, we can confirm that using an airboat to cruise through the everglades won’t do any damage to the environment at all!
Due to the design of the airboat, aquatic life down below will be safe from airboats and their engines. The propellers, which are normally found beneath a conventional boat, are placed behind an airboat, thus making the bottom part of the surface flat. Due to this unique design, airboats won’t harm or make minimal contact with life down below! Besides that, operators also tend to avoid any big animal to prevent accidents for both the animal and the passengers of the boat.
12. These Men Hold The Record for Longest Journey on an Airboat
We need to applaud William Fadeley Jr. and Eugene Hajtovik, simply because of their will to set this world record. To be able to endure a 13-day journey on an airboat is not something that you can do easily. The trip, dubbed the “Ride to Liberty”, began in Jacksonville, Florida on 21 June 1986. The airboat has a 350-horsepower engine and was successfully reaching a top speed of 72 mph. They reached the Statue of Liberty just in time for the Liberty Weekend celebration.
13. There are a Lot of Airboat Races and Competitions
Nowadays, people can use airboats for various purposes. Aside from fishing and hunting, we can also use an airboat for touring the Florida Everglades. These days, people can even build their own airboat and enter various competitions. They are very popular in the deep swamplands of the Florida Everglades, as it provides the best environment for airboat racing! The American Powerboat Association even expressed an interest in bringing these races to a more commercial platform.
There are also impromptu airboat races that take place on several rivers or seas. Unfortunately, this type of race is dangerous and can cause a lot of accidents and injuries. Due to that fact, people began to call out for some sort of regulation to monitor amateur airboat races.
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