In 2005, a new inflatable product hit store shelves. They also flew off the shelves. Called flying water tubes, inflatable flying watercraft, tube kits, Manta Rays, and plenty of other names, they were more dangerous than people realized. Injuries began to mount and there were even several fatalities in less than a year of use.
In the United States, this caused the Army Corps of Engineers to ban their use from all managed waters under Federal control. Yet you can still find them for sale on occasion, often retailing in the $500 range. Although essentially outlawed, there are some waterways where they can still be used.
Don’t be tempted by the madness.
Why Are Flying Water Tubes So Dangerous?
The Christian Science Monitor discussed in depth in 2006 about why flying water tubes are so dangerous. They interviewed Brad Vaught, who owned a flying water tube and was a commercial pilot at the time of publication.
“It gives the common man a chance to fly,” he said. “The problem is that most people don’t have the judgement to realize what could happen very quickly, given the wrong scenario.”
The product warning on these inflatables should say it all: “Fly only as high as you are comfortable falling.”
So what makes them so problematic? The fact that they are light, exposed to wind gusts, and could be pulling people at speeds higher than 20 miles per hour. Impacting the water at those speeds can cause deep bruises, break bones, and much worse.
Are Flying Water Tubes Actually Illegal?
The answer to the legality of a flying water tube is complicated. It is not illegal to own one. It may be illegal to use one. This depends on local, regional, state, and national laws which govern the location where you intend to use the product. Federal waterways have completed banned them. Some states have banned them as well.
Other jurisdictions have outlawed their use in some locations, but not in others.
The right course of action to take would be to check local laws if you insist on using this type of inflatable product. A better decision, however, would be to find an alternative product that is just as fun so that you won’t have to worry about what your head does if it hits the surface of the water with a high speed impact.
What Is the Alternative to a Flying Water Tube?
Although traditional inflatables which stay on the surface of the water may not be as exciting as flying through the air, they are a product that is a lot easier to control. You also won’t get in trouble using most inflatables that are available for sale today if you use Federal waterways in the United States.
Staying on the water’s surface limits the fall impact that will be received, even if the inflatable is being towed at higher speeds. Injuries may still occur, but they are generally minor compared to the impact injuries of a flying water tube.
Cost is also a factor. A high quality inflatable which stays on the water’s surface may cost 1/6 the price of a modern flying water tube.
Avoid the madness. Purchase a high quality inflatable today and enjoy the good life instead of risking your life with a flying water tube.
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