Use in emergency operations
Airboats have a flat bottom hull design and no working parts below the waterline. They can be operated in floodwaters without regard to depth or floating debris. Loaded to capacity, an airboat can maneuver through floodwaters, skim over downed trees, submerged fences, wrecked automobiles, trash and vegetation. Although airboats have their limitations, they have been reported to operate in up to class 4 whitewater.
Its unique features make it the nearly perfect vessel for flood rescue and evacuation. An airboat can be deployed without regard to a designated launch site or depth of water. An adequately powered airboat needs no water at all for operation. It can be unloaded from its trailer onto dry ground by its captain alone, without any additional help, and can even be maneuvered across dry pavement to the water’s edge.
An aluminium airboat’s construction, coupled with a polymer hull covering, allows it to withstand the otherwise destructive punishment by ice shoves, rocks, logs and tree stumps. An airboat with a polymer-clad aluminium hull can withstand the destructive pounding of jagged rocks that would quickly destroy the vinyl skirts of a hovercraft or inflatable.
Deployment: Launching – No water necessary
An advantage of using airboats for water or ice-rescue operations is that no designated launch site is needed. An airboat’s design makes it capable of being launched almost anywhere, regardless of the presence of water or a wet surface. An airboat, equipped with an adequate power plant and a polymer clad bottom, is capable of running on dry ground, even with a full payload.
When being deployed for emergency operations, an airboat can be run directly off its trailer, across dry ground, mud, ice or snow, down an embankment and onto the body of water or ice with minimal launch time. This capability makes launching a one-man operation.
Comparing vessels in length, width and carrying capacity, airboats have a much greater payload than hovercraft or inflatables, while still maintaining the ability to traverse shallow water or ice.
A 16-18 foot (4.9 – 5.5 m) aluminium hull airboat, powered by a large block automotive engine, can have a 2,200–2,800 pound (998 – 1270 kg) load capacity and carry up to 12 people. The same size airboat, specifically designed for search and rescue operation, can accommodate up to four immobilized patients on backboards or in stokes baskets, in addition to the crew and rescue equipment.
Unloaded and under ideal operating conditions, an airboat can travel up to 45-60 mph (72 – 97 km/h) across water. Carrying a full load, an airboat can be maneuvered over sandbars, dense aquatic vegetation, across mud flats, dry ground and even climb hills.
Aerial View of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Airboats were the best option to search for survivors and evacuate victims.