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Jon boat to airboat


I'm new to this group and think this is the place to get a good
and honest answer.
I have a 14x48 Jon boat right now it's a mud boat/river long
tail shaft I want to convert it to a mini air boat I'm thinking of a 15-20HP
Predator or something on that order.
Any advice is welcomed.
Thank you
Wrongway :proud:


Well-known member
Man...your forum name is spot on imo.

However, jokes aside, its really not the way to go if you want an airboat.

Budget really dictates what options you have. second to that is what do you want to do with your airboat.

But, for sure, dont waste your time with that jon boat hull.

glades cat

Well-known member
Airboats can be tippy. Engines mounted high and prop torque affect this. 48" is not a very wide hull.
A Jon boat with an airprop is not an airboat. Same as a bicycle with an engine is not a motorcycle.
If you're determined to build it you'll find its limitations quickly.
Just trying to steer you in the right direction.


Well-known member
Well stated and great advice Glades!

Real simple.....you would be better off keeping the MudBuddy rather than try to use a 20hp lawnmower engine to push the same hull with air


Well-known member
I built one a few years back. The hull was 14x36 and it worked just fine. I think 14x48 would be even better. I bought a 2 stroke ultra-lite engine from a company called '2 stroke International'. Weighed less than 100 lbs. Has a 3 blade composite prop, with ground adjustable pitch blocks. It ran 28 mph with one person and loaded with duck hunting gear.


Well-known member
it can be done, but friends dont let friends build "airboats" out of narrow beam John boats.

the mudmotor will be cheaper to run and go same places that a low power air driven john boat will and do it more safely.

Think hard about it before sinking money into this path.

Budget, then what do you want to do with it.

That is first step. If you answer that, then i think you will get more valuable feedback here.


Well-known member
Whats the use ,a jonboat is for the water ,so run a go devil or mud puppy ,an airboat is for runnin dry wen needed gettin into tight skinny water ,loading up all huntingear coolers and beer and heading out . Jmo u will waste your time on a jonboat hull ,i would look for a cheap airboat hull and build one peice atta time till u have a real airboat not a conversion ,

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we built one on a 16' v hull boat with a 65hp corvair engine. it was a blast. we used to take into the oyster flats in new Hampshire at low tide. skimmed over the mud. the tricky parts where stopping and getting going again. the v hull would not stay upright it would tip on it's side when we stopped. but we had four or five people and a bushel basket full of oysters for each person. we would hit the power and off we go, within 25 feet or so it would upright it self. it was great had the whole flat to our selves and only ankle deep mud to wallow around in.
I have a question. Since a Jon boat is narrow. Could some form of pontoons be used like saddlebags on a bike? Assisting in the sideways slide as a outrigger. Still seems like a lot of bother to modify something designed for another purpose.


Well-known member
Everyone above has told you the truth. You can put a motor and an air propeller on the back of a jon boat, and yes it will push it, but the same motor will push it better and take you more places as a mud motor setup. Water is so much denser than air, and that fact alone means the air drive is much much much less effecient. Real airboats are designed from the ground up to make the hull and everything associated with the airboat to compliment the air drive and to best harness and extract the last little bit of performance from the available thrust. A small, mini airboat can be built to utilize a small motor like your thinking of using and will perform better than the Jon boat hull. I built a mini airboat and used a 13hp Honda and it did ok but In hindsight I should've went a different route. If it were me, I'd keep the Jon boat as mud motor boat, it'll go more places than if you put an airprop on a motor and slap that on the back . If you really want an airboat and it's a money thing then I'd suggest selling your mud boat and scouring Facebook and Craigslist for a cheap airboat hull and building one up like that, if you shop around you can find deals on every component required to complete the project and when your done you'll be the proud owner of an airboat, a real airboat. If you do decide to proceed with your original idea, you should definitely plan to include a reduction drive for the engine. It'll give you twice the performance (maybe not twice but close enough), but therein lies the dilemma, a reduction is gonna cost 700-1500 or so. When you start adding the price of required components to make it perform adequately , in the end you'll realize you could have built or bought a real airboat... But if your detetmined to do this then your in the right spot, we can help you by giving you good advice. The first advice, and you should take it, is to scrap your idea and keep the Jon boat as a mud motor boat. If you want to proceed anyways then buy or build a reduction drive. Weight is going to be your enemy because you don't have much power so you'll need to keep the entire build as light as safely possible. Your not the first to contemplate or try this and you won't be the last. You've got a lot of choices to make. Take some time and and really think this thing through. And if you decide to move forward with it, I'll help you, after all that's what we're here for.


Well-known member
You may want to check your regulations of air thrust propulsion access also. I know where I live here in Utah Airboats are not allowed in the same areas Mud boats are. (Inside main impoundments of WMA's) thats so we dont blow some poor little 10-12 foot tin can jon boat out of the water with the prop wash of our 500+hp motors.