There Is A Good Reason For Composite-Fiberglass
There are two technologies used in the construction of ice-water airboats:
Composite Hull - Used in the construction of ALL airboats from 1000 Island Airboats
The term fiberglass is itself somewhat misleading, as it describes just one component of what is actually a composite material. The other component is a plastic resin, usually polyester, although vinylester and sometimes epoxy are increasingly used these days. Thus the more accurate term is fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP).
The principle behind any composite building material is simple. A binding medium that is not structurally sound can be stiffened and made stronger by adding another more fibrous material. You cannot, for example, build a solid house of just mud or straw, but if you mix mud and straw together, you can build quite a strong house. It is the same with concrete and rebar, plaster and lath, or even papier-mâché. In all cases, the sum is much stronger than its parts. In this case, the medium is the resin, and the stiffening fibers are spun glass filaments ten times thinner than a single human hair. These fine glass fibers are in one sense quite fragile, but when held in column by plastic resin they are also stiff and strong.
The resin begins as a liquid and becomes solid after a catalyst or hardener is added to it. This is a chemical reaction that cannot be undone. Unlike thermoforming plastics like polythene and PVC that can be melted after they set and recast like metal, thermosetting plastics like polyester, vinylester, and epoxy become permanently solid after setting. Applying heat softens them a bit and greatly weakens them (indeed, they have very low heat resistance compared to most metals), and they may be set on fire, but they cannot melt and become fluid again.
Aluminum hulls are created by taking flat panels of aluminum, cutting to specification and welding them together. The big advantage to aluminum is the fact that it is lighter than composite. This is NOT the case for ice water airboats, however, because aluminum hulls designed for snow and ice are a heavier gauge than those used for water only.
A big disadvantage of aluminum built airboats operating on ice and snow is the fact that they are constructed with a flat hull. This creates a huge issue when traveling over ice, snow, slush etc. That issue is DRAG and dangerous ice/water transitions. Flat bottom airboats for ice usage are much less maneuverable, require more power, and tend to "snowplow", further adding to performance issues. Another concern is metal fatigue when operating on solid ice in sub zero temperatures. Please read more about this by clicking on the PDF Symbol below.
The following was stated by an aluminum airboat industry expert on the use of aluminum airboats on ice.
"I'm not sure about all the USCG airboats. I know they've used several different manufacturers over the last few years, trying to find one that'll hold up to their mission profiles on the Great Lakes. From what I hear from USCG, they're destroying the boats after one season, well destroying the structure inside. Extreme vibration and shock, stress and extended operations is wreaking havoc on welds"
Click the PDF symbol below to view additional side by side comparison.