U.S. Geological Survey Manual
Part 445-2-H Chapter 31
Airboat Operator Certification Course Standards
1. Course Description. The Airboat Operator Certification Course module outlines the training standards specific to this Special Use Watercraft. This appendix details the minimum requirements only and may be modified to meet specific field needs as necessary. Successful completion of Motorboat Operator Certification Course (MOCC) training is a prerequisite to taking the Airboat Operator Certification Course (AOCC). The AOCC is to be instructed by person(s) trained in Motorboat Operator Instructor Certification Course (MOICC) as described in Appendix 31-B, as well as trained by a certified Airboat Operator Certification Course Instructor. The Bureau Watercraft Safety Program Manager may approve other instructors to teach AOCC. The student/instructor ratio for airboat training will not exceed 2:1. There are currently no recertification training requirements for airboat operators. NOTE: The U.S. Geological Survey does not recognize nor grant reciprocity to other airboat courses that are less than the prescribed course length established below.
2. Course Objectives. Through classroom lectures and hands-on practical exercises, students should understand the safe operating principals of an airboat and related components and be able to demonstrate safe airboat operating skills. Upon completion of the course, students will:
A. Be able to identify the parts of an airboat and their functions.
B. Learn to conduct a detailed Pre-Flight Safety Inspection.
C. Be able to perform minimal maintenance of an airboat.
D. Be able to demonstrate start-ups, stops, turns, and shut-down.
E. Demonstrate differences in shallow and deep water airboat operation.
F. Demonstrate minimum and “at-speed” airboat operation.
G. Demonstrate airboat docking, beaching, unloading and loading procedures.
H. Pass a final exam with a minimum passing score of 70 percent.
3. Course Lengths. The AOCC is presented in two distinct training modules.
A. Module One is intended for students with no airboat operating experience and is 24 hours in duration.
B. Module Two is intended for students with airboat experience, either as a passenger or as an operator, and who need additional instruction and certification. This course is 16 hours in duration.
A. AOCC Students must successfully complete the MOCC prior to taking the Airboat Operator Certification Course.
B. AOCC Students must have current first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation certifications.
5. Minimum Subject Areas. The AOCC Course will consist of, but not be limited to, the following:
A. Understanding the principles of safely operating an airboat.
B. Steering with rudders.
C. When to apply power and (or) when to “back off” the throttle.
D. Importance of proper weight distribution and stability.
E. Turns and turning capabilities.
F. Shallow and deep water operations.
G. Understanding the control panel (aircraft and (or) automotive gauges).
H. Reading the gauges.
I. When to shut down.
J. What to look for when a gauge reads “trouble.”
K. Understanding what is a “normal” gauge reading.
L. Conducting a Pre-Flight Safety Inspection.
6. Airboat Operation.
A. Operators of airboats will be adequately trained, properly tested, and certified prior to operating airboats. Employees completing the initial AOCC certification course must submit documentation of an additional 40 hours of supervised stick time to the Airboat Operator Certification Course Lead Instructor before receiving the Airboat Operator Certificate.
B. Airboats will be operated at all times with safety as the primary requirement and in accordance with recognized Federal, State, and local laws and standards. In the event of any conflict, the more stringent requirement will apply.
7. Safety Briefing.
A. The airboat operator must conduct a safety briefing with the crew and passenger(s) prior to leaving the launch site.
B. The safety briefing will include familiarization with location(s) of all safety equipment, emergency equipment, emergency supplies, and potential hazards of the specific mission.
C. The safety briefing will also include discussion of a contingency plan in the event of an actual emergency.
8. Required Equipment. In addition to the required equipment for all motorized boats, airboats must be outfitted with the following equipment:
A. Navigation lights.
B. Manual bailing device.
C. Bilge pump(s) installed and equipped with adequate protection from clogging with internal debris.
D. Push-pole(s) and/or pry pole(s).
E. Axe or machete.
F. Double hearing protection for each occupant consisting of foam-insert ear plugs and proper over-the-head hearing protection.
H. Adequate eye protection for each occupant.
I. Boat hook.
J. Emergency repair spare parts.
9. Effective Communications Equipment.
A. In addition to the communications equipment for all motorized boats, airboats must be equipped with a global positioning system, either mounted or hand held.
B. Use of passenger-to-passenger communication equipment is highly recommended.
10. Other Considerations for Airboats.
A. Airboats may be excluded from the requirement to display a U.S. Coast Guard Data Plate. Contact the Bureau Watercraft Safety Program Manager or a Regional Watercraft Safety Program Manager for additional information.
B. It is highly recommended that airboats be equipped with a survival bag containing additional safety equipment, emergency food, and water rations essential to sustain each person onboard for a minimum of 24 hours.
11. Additional Personal Floatation Device (PFD) Requirements. In addition to the PFD requirements for all boats, PFDs on airboats must have pockets or an accessory pouch for storage of emergency signaling devices such as a signal mirror, sound-producing device, or approved pyrotechnics.
12. Additional Operator and Crew Training. Airboats have the unique capability of traversing shallow waters and working in areas where accessibility is often restricted to other airboats or rescue helicopters when search and rescue is attempted, therefore:
A. All airboat operators and crew members must receive advanced first aid or wilderness first aid training and remain current with this certification.
B. Due to the high noise rating of airboats, airboat operators and crew members must be enrolled in a hearing conservation program.
13. Additional Responsibilities. It is highly recommended that airboat operators maintain a stick-time log book, documenting their hours of operation.