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Aircraft tugs

Tow bars, towbarless tractors, or electric aircraft tugs – the number of various ways to tow your aircraft appears almost infinite. A number of these vehicles have been around for a long time, some are simply getting started and might turn the way we think about ground support upside down. The fact is: that you need an aircraft tug if you wish to maintain an aviation business. So let’s get things sorted out, shall we?

Aircraft tugs are often found at every hangar and every airport, worldwide. Their features rely upon their purpose. Therefore, tugs can be for example divided into groups by their thrust. Or depending on their form of drive. Or you distinguish them based on their design.

One feature doesn’t exclude another, though. Simply because you’ve got a powerful aircraft tug, that may pull up to 195 t (nearly 430,000 lbs) doesn’t mean it can’t be battery powered.


Look down on yourself. Shoulders… arms… ah, and there it is! the simplest way to move a light-sport aircraft or another small plane: your bare hands. Once in motion, these airplanes are often moved around by hand since they’re on wheels.

Anyone who pushed a car once is aware that the force it takes to set such a vehicle in motion is nothing compared to its actual weight. Some propeller planes can even be pulled by their propeller – yeah, it’s strong enough. It holds the plane’s weight in the air, after all.

Aircraft tugs


Admittedly, pulling a plane by hand can be a cumbersome procedure. An easy and cheap helper is a simple tow bar. These devices are often made of aluminum and therefore very light.

You attach them to either the nose wheel or the tail wheel of your aircraft and procure a practical handle you’ll be able to steer the plane with it. Its little size and weight even allow taking such a tow bar along on the flight.

Aircraft tugs


Given these obvious downsides of tow bar tugs, it was quite evident that there had to be another solution. That’s why in the 1980s the first towbarless tug was introduced in France. Since then it has taken the world by storm, cutting out standard tow bar tractors from many scopes of ground support.

The wheel of the aircraft is hydraulically picked up, placed, and fixated atop the tug. therefore one aircraft tug fits a wide range of aircraft and will not rely on an adapter such as a tow bar.

No doubt: A towbarless tug has plenty of advantages over a tow bar tractor. However, it’s still not the measure of all things, particularly because of 2 major minuses: the technology and the handling.

For one thing, using fossil fuels on your GSE is simply a waste of resources and pollutes your working surroundings. ALSO operating a generic towbarless tug needs multiple people at a time, one of them sitting in the tug and steering it.

This doesn’t only raise your personnel costs. It comes with a risk for both your employees and the aircraft and GSE involved, since human errors are more likely, particularly with not automated tugs. the consequences can be observed for instance in early 2016 when Iron Maiden’s 747-400 was damaged and 2 employees were injured in a tug collision.

What is the logical consequence to avoid these problems? You guess it

Aircraft tugs


A 2008 study by the Institute for automotive engineering at the RWTH University of Aachen, Germany came to the conclusion that it’s only reasonable to switch diesel tractors with electric tugs. Each economically and ecologically. The study assumed that hybrid systems are going to be the next step.

But I used diesel tractors my whole life, why should I switch to an electric tug? Is it really that good?

The future runs on electricity. If you invest in battery-powered equipment today you don’t only make a wise, farsighted and economical decision. you furthermore may improve the air quality at your airport and thus the operating area for your employees.

Aircraft tugs

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