Airboat Operator Course Providers

airboathero.jpgA review of Florida boating accidents from year 2007 through the year 2017, indicate that there have been 55 airboat accidents that were involved in a commercial activity. These accidents have resulted in two fatalities and 130 injured persons. A review of the boating accident reports indicates that 65% (36) of the accidents were collisions with a fixed object (mangrove islands, tree branches, stumps or roots) or another airboat. These collisions occurred due to excessive speed and the operator not maintaining a proper look-out/inattention. Excessive speed may be attributed to the vessel traveling at a speed too fast for the environmental conditions, location or the operator’s abilities to properly and safely traverse the area. 68% percent of the airboat accidents occurred while traveling between 10 to 40 miles per hour. No proper look-out/inattention can be described as operators that may have been distracted by occupants, onboard electronic devices, or looking at something other than where the vessel was headed. Operators not recognizing their close proximity to or the distance needed, to safely navigate around fixed objects are also categorized as not maintaining a proper look-out/inattention.

Many accidents involve areas of limited visibility and the speed of travel being contributing factors to the accident occurring. Operators should recognize that when in locations where there is limited visibility or sight distance they should proceed at a speed where they can safely control the vessel and effectively make any emergency maneuvers if the need arises. Remember, the safety of your instructors, students and their future passengers is YOUR responsibility at all times. The way you ensure this is through the safe operation of airboats.

Airboats transitioning from water to land and result in an accident are categorized as “grounding.” These grounding accidents are most often caused by the speed of the airboat crossing the terrain, the operator’s inexperience with the area or the airboat in use, or obstructions hidden in vegetation. 20% percent of accidents during that last five years were groundings. 14 people were injured in grounding accidents.

Due to this accident data, a legislative revision in 2018 to s.327.391, Florida Statutes, requires all persons operating an airboat carrying one or more passengers for hire on state waters to have the following beginning July 1, 2019:

  • photographic ID,
  • proof of successful completion of boater safety education or USCG Captain’s license,
  • proof of a commission-approved airboat operator course, and
  • proof of completion of CPR and first aid courses.

In July 2018, FWC Commissioners approved an Airboat Operator Course rule effective October 1, 2018. The FWC Development Manual Adobe PDF will be available to course providers. The course information provided in the manual must not be deleted or changed. Course providers are required to add the Florida-specific topics to the manual and an additional practical. Course providers can add additional information covering the following five chapters:

  • Airboat Orientation
  • Airboat Maintenance
  • Required and Recommended Equipment
  • Operating Airboats
  • Practical Exercises

However, information cannot be removed from the manual.

Course Providers are required to:

  • Renew their course approval every three years.
  • Maintain their course records, curriculum, and certificates for five years from close of business.
  • Ensure their instructors are qualified (see below).
  • Confirm students have met the CPR, first aid, and boater safety education/USCG Captain’s license.
  • Issue a certificate to students who complete their course.

Course providers must remember the safety of your instructors, students and their future passengers through the safe operation of airboats is YOUR responsibility at all times.

Instructor Qualifications:

  • Demonstrated airboat knowledge and skills.
  • Must be at least 21 years of age.
  • Have either a high-school diploma or GED.
  • Must not have had their privilege to operate a vessel in Florida suspended in the past three years.
  • No felony convictions within the previous five years.
  • Must have a minimum of 120 hours of documented airboat operation time within last three years, to be completed at a minimum of 40 hours per year. This can be documented using the Airboat Operation Log.
  • FWC recommends having your instructors complete a Department of Interior based course prior to becoming an instructor.

Please review the Informational PowerPoint Adobe PDF for the minimum course requirements and Florida-specific topic which must be incorporated into your course.

You will need to submit an application and checklist Adobe PDF with your course materials. Below you will find the application along with additional information which will help with applying and getting your course approved.

Course Information and Materials:

Examples:

Here is a list of items which need to be submitted to FWC for course approval:

  • Two complete copies of course documents (1 electronic and 1 printed copy)
  • Airboat Operator Workbook/Text with Florida-specific topics added (all added information highlighted)
  • Final exam
  • Lesson plans
  • Syllabus/Course outline
  • List of course objectives
  • On-the-water practicals
  • Example of certificate


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