BMA tests airboats to counter criticism

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Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) yesterday conducted performance tests of its airboats amid strong criticism that they are not suitable for use in Bangkok’s canals.

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The BMA under the helm of M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra purchased four sets of airboats from the United States at the total cost of 40 million baht, or 10 million baht a set which comprises an airboat and a tow truck fully equipped with fire extinguisher gears.

The governor intended to use the airboats to fight fires on buildings built on river and canal banks where road access is not possible.

But the purchase made in March last year sparked outcry from some assembly men that the price was too high and irregularities might be involved.

Besides the airboats might be useless for Bangkok’s canal conditions.

The BMA plans to deliver them to three fire stations under the supervision of the Bangkok Center for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation in Samsen, Dao Khanong and Lad Krabang.

The main purpose of the performance tests was to determine if the equipment were actually suitable for use in Bangkok or were they an unnecessary waste as accused by some assemblym

The airboat has a flat bottomed hull and much criticism has been raised over its seaworthiness for use on the Chao Phraya River.

Many people feel that being flat bottomed these crafts will be unstable and could easily capsize.

The airboat is made from aluminium alloy and is 2.4 metres in width and 5.5 metres in length.

Each weighs approximately 1,500 kgs.

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It is equipped with pump that takes water from canals and river and able to reach fires as high as 10 stories.

After the test, officials of the Center for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation voiced satisfaction of the efficiency of the airboat saying it was up to international standards.

The airboat is of great help in case of fighting fires at waterside homes along Bangkok canals in which many areas cannot be conveniently accessed by vehicles.

For example waterways that are clogged with debris will be difficult for boats with conventional propellers to traverse.

But they are not a problem for these airboats.

Furthermore their bottoms are covered with superlene sheets that allow them to travel even on grassy or earth and muddy ground.

But some firemen taking part and observed the test voiced concern over the airboat’s height at the rear which may reduce its maneuverability.

They were concerned that the boat might not be able to pass under some low canal bridges.

Besides the waves created by its propeller might disturb homes along the canals.

Their comments are backed up by engineers from Lad Krabang King Mongkut Institute of Technology who say that airboats are more suited to open waters and not suitable for narrow canals in the capital.