Types of airplane tugs and their features

Aircraft towing is an essential part of ground operations in an airport. The aircraft needs to be towed in and out of a hangar. This cumbersome task is achieved with the help of a powered vehicle called an airplane tug. Airplane tugs are designed for towing aircraft ranging from light aircraft to heavyaircraft weighing in the range of thousands of lbs. Airplane tugs are indispensable for both public as well as private hangars. Airplane tugs are mainly used to safely and efficiently tow large-sized heavy airplanes even though employing them for small and light aircraft is also recommended by aviation experts. Airplane tugs can either be equipped with a towbaror devoid of a towbar. The power source can either be electricity, gas, or diesel.

The common types of airplane tugs used in the aviation sector have been discussed here.

Light Airplane Tug

Trainer aircraft, sports aircrafts, and other types of light aircrafts can be pulled manually using bare hands. Even the propellers can be grasped to push and pull the light airplane. However, investing in a light airplane tug saves a lot of physical labor on the part of the ground crew and speeds up towing. A single operator is needed to handle this type of tug. The tug simply needs to be fixed to the front wheel of the airplane. Electric light airplane tugs particularly score high on efficiency and safety.

Towbar Airplane Tug

Towbarairplane tugs are designed to push and pull standard heavy passenger airplanes. This type of airplane tug has a conventional tow bar attached to the tip of the airplane. The tug is powered by an engine that draws power from electricity, gas, or diesel. Towbar airplane tugs cannot push or pull the airplanes at high speeds because of the towbar’s risk of getting disengaged from the aircraft and other towbar issues. Towbar tugs have a higher turn radius as compared to towbarless tugs. Furthermore, each type of airplane needs a particular kind of towbar fitting, which necessitates using multiple kinds of towbars if many types of aircrafts need to be towed. Towing an airplane using a towbar tug requires two persons’ efforts, one to operate the tug itself and the other to sit in the cockpit of the plane to maneuver it.

TowbarlessAirplane Tug

Towbarless airplane tugs do not need towbar to push and pull airplanes. This type of tug attaches to the airplane’s front wheel and pulls it up using hydraulic force. Once the airplane’s front wheel is mounted on the tug, it is driven to the required position. This is a highly efficient method of towing airplanes. Maneuvering the aircraft using this tug is very easy, mainly because the turn radius is small due to the absence of a towbar. There is also no hassle of changing towbars because the hydraulic system is suited for all aircrafts. The airplane can also be towed at higher speeds as compared to towbar versions. Diesel, gas, or electrical engine is used in a towbarless tug.

Remote Controlled Airplane Tug

Remote-controlled airplane tugs are fully electrical tugs. They run on rechargeable electric batteries. These are advancedtowbarless tugs. There is no physical involvement of the ground crew in towing the airplane because the entire process is handled from a distance using the remote control.