What Are The Advantages Of Using Aircraft Pushback Tugs?
What Are The Advantages Of Using Aircraft Pushback Tugs?

Every business that is using aircraft or has anything to do with air travel is likely familiar with aircraft ground movements. These procedures are very familiar at most airports – you definitely have seen airplanes taxiing around and various types of vehicles handling heavy cargo. Modern airports are bustling environments – there is something on the move everywhere. Airlines, both small and large, conduct pushbacks around the clock. MROs rotate aircraft in and out of hangars like clockwork. Military units are constantly moving around equipment and vehicles. Modern airports never stop, and virtually all aircraft ground movement is possible due to the aircraft push back tug. It is such an amazing tool.

What Are Pushback Tugs? Why Are Tow Barless Tugs So Important?

There are many types of pushback tugs on the market, and every airport has multiple models working 24/7. Not all aircraft tugs are pushback tugs, there are many types of tugs, all used for different purposes.

The real pushback tug is designed to give the operator excellent visibility in order to fully use the attachment mechanism between the aircraft and the tug. This mechanism is usually a tow bar which is fixed to the airplane's nose landing gear. This attachment mechanism is widely used in airports worldwide but is rather outdated. There are various concerns about this attachment method:

  • The mechanism uses two pivot points – there is more room for error

  • There are multiple blind spots

  • There are severe pinch points

  • It can be cumbersome for inexperienced operators – there is a steep learning curve

New pushback models that have a simple attachment mechanism are called towbarless tugs, and they can be either diesel or electric. The main difference, when compared to the older models, is the huge hydraulic cradle between the forward wheels. This cradle is attached to the tires of the airplane. Then, it lifts the plane, receiving all of the forward weight off the airplane onto the tug itself.

Towbarless tugs advantages

These new pushback tug models are superior when compared to older ones. They are much faster, easier to attach and disconnect and are much more mobile, thanks to the no-towbar design. However, there is a slight inconvenience – the driver is seated directly towards the aircraft, so the pushback tugis only effective during pushback operations. They are not as versatile as older models.

The aircraft ground movements can be revolutionized by the towbarless tug. This is because the older models are much too complicated and difficult to master, especially for beginners. Also, older models still need the same number of members for the pushback operations as tractor tugs. The new tug brings several direct advantages:

  • The Reduction In Manpower The towbarless tug is highly specialized, only one employee can handle the entire aircraft

  • A Direct Increase In Safety Thanks to the new attachment system, the towbarless tug only needs an operator, which is usually the driver as well; attaching the tow is an incredibly risky operation and cannot be handled by one person; if a towbarless system is used, a single person can attach the aircraft;

The Economic Benefits Of Tugs

Like all other aircraft maintenance equipment, quality aircraft push back tugs are very expensive. However, they are built to last and can be used safely for decades, as long as regular maintenance work is performed. They are complex machines, designed to move airplanes that weigh close to 200 tons. What's more, they have to move them efficiently, quickly and, more importantly – almost non stop. Yes, they are designed to work virtually non-stop. You'll rarely see a tug just laying around.

Tugs are so important; airlines and airport operators should buy only the highest quality models. Buying the right units will guarantee that the ground operations are done efficiently every time. On the other hand, buying poor quality tugs may create problems for the whole airport, resulting in financial losses. There are other benefits, as well. For instance, good tugs mean that you will need fewer employees to man them. Let's say you pay an operator a flat rate of $15 per hour. For a crew of 10 people, this means you will spend $150 per hour. If they are working 12 hours on a tug, this means that the cost will be $1,800. Just by reducing the workforce by 3 people, your costs will be $540 less per day. This means you will spend $200,000 less for ground operations, just by using new tugs.

Other Factors To Consider

Pushback tugs are immensely beneficial for any airport and it's ideal if you have the latest models in your fleet. Obviously, the next big thing is to use remotely controlled aircraft push back tugs. Even though this technology is not effective in all situations, there are immense advantages, at least for simple ground operations.

Simple tugs have been ubiquitous around airports because they are efficient for virtually any operation. They are reliable, sturdy, easy to use and can work for decades. While some operations can be difficult to do, as described above, pushback tugs will be important tools around airports for decades to come. There are certain operations that may be replaced by other, more efficient tools, like remote-controlled tugs, but their main function will still remain the same.

Pushback tugs, together with tractor tugs will dominate ground movements in every airport. Tractor tugs will tow equipment for longer distances, while pushback tugs will tow airplanes. Tractor tugs are designed to pull longer and heavier loads, with pintle hitches at both ends. They are mainly used to pull airplanes out of the hangar. When doing this, the tractor turns around and pulls in a forward direction. Their cabs provide and an extra measure of safety, but their maneuverability is not very good. Both pushback and tractor tugs are very efficient, but they are designed for different operations – and they are here to stay for a long time. They are critically important in every airport.


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