Boating Basics

Airboats


Airboats are designed to operate well in shallow water and marshlands, but their high center of gravity and lack of flotation make them susceptible to capsizing and/or sinking.

An airboat is propelled by air pushed through the vessel's aircraft-like propeller. The propeller creates a column of forced air that passes by the rudders, which permits steering. Consequently, they are best steered and controlled through acceleration.

Unlike most other boats, airboats are incapable of going in reverse. Their forward momentum is slowed only by deceleration and the friction and displacement of the water.

Safe and courteous airboat operation is very important for airboaters. The airboat operator must always be aware of the potential effects their boat may have on others. The "prop wash" can throw water spray, sand, or other objects toward others behind their boat, and a small, unstable boat may even be capsized by the forced air.

Many outdoorsmen and waterway residents find airboat sound levels objectionable. Muffling an airboat's exhaust with automotive-style factory mufflers, underwater exhaust, or other manufactured device capable of adequately muffling the sound of the exhaust of the engine is required in Florida, and operators should take additional steps to reduce airboat sound. This includes slowly accelerating to planing speed, operating just fast enough to keep the boat on plane, and avoiding running "dry" and power-loading onto trailers.

Airboats fall under the same guidelines as other vessels in regard to safety equipment to be carried. In addition:

  • All airboats operating on Florida waters must be equipped with a rectangular flag, at least 10" x 12" in size and international orange in color, which is displayed at least 10 feet above the bottom of the boat.
  • There may be some areas of the state where airboats are prohibited from operation.
All airboats operating on Florida waters must be equipped with a rectangular flag, at least 10" x 12" in size and international orange in color, that is displayed at least 10 feet above the bottom of the boat.