All About Aircraft Towing

Aircraft towing is a standard procedure for moving a plane on the ground, and it is commonly used to transport aircraft to and from gates, hangers, and around the flight line. There are multiple benefits for towing an aircraft, ranging from fuel savings to increased safety as towing crews may have better visuals around an airport to avoid collisions. Towing requires special equipment to ensure safety and reliability, and the equipment used will often depend upon the size of the aircraft, its landing gear, and other characteristics.

During the towing procedure, the most common method is to have the engines shut off and the brakes released while being moved. Once those conditions have been confirmed, a specialized ground vehicle will utilize a tug attached to the nose landing gear of the aircraft so that it can be safely moved across a runway or ground surface. Typically, towing requires clearance from air traffic control (ATC) in the form of an RTF clearance before the process can be conducted. If the aircraft is being transported to a start position, they then need clearance by the aircraft commander.

While not required, many aircraft will need a ground locking pin installed in the nose landing gear during the towing procedure. This pin can be removed once the aircraft has been transported, and the removal can be recorded in the Aircraft Technical Log. While there are many methods of towing an aircraft, the most traditional way is to have a towbar attached to the nose landing gear. In some instances, a ground vehicle known as a towbarless tug may be used in which the gear leg is engaged and lifted off the ground for an alternate method of towing. Whenever towing is carried out, however, the ground crew team must follow AFM limits for the maximum nose landing gear steering angle.

Despite aircraft towing being a very common procedure, there are associated risks that should always be avoided. Throughout the entire process, ground crew members must ensure that the aircraft does not come into contact with any objects, vehicles, or other aircraft to avoid damage and hazards. The biggest risk to avoid is collision with other aircraft, and this is most dangerous on an active runway where there may be aircraft taking off and landing. Utilizing intercom communication, the crew will work alongside individuals within the flight deck as well as air traffic control to ensure a safe procedure is carried out. Individuals in the flight deck are also tasked with managing the braking system and electrical power so that lighting and intercom communication is maintained. If there is an auxiliary power unit and electrical pump available on the aircraft, it may be used for braking.

For many lighter aircraft, towing or moving the plane may be achievable without equipment or with simplified tools. Some small aircraft may be moved by hand when light enough, though it can be a strenuous activity that can hurt an unprepared individual. As such, it is recommended to use small aircraft tugs or dollies for safer and more reliable transportation. Since such equipment is small and simplistic, it usually only requires one individual for operation. Generally, such tugs or dollies can be attached to the front wheel of the aircraft and then directed as needed.

Using the proper equipment such as tugs, dollies, and more, transporting small and large aircraft can be much more efficient as compared to other methods. At ASAP Fulfillment, we serve as a premier purchasing platform for new, used, and obsolete components that cater to a variety of industries and applications. For our customers’ benefit, we ship every part alongside its qualifying certifications or manufacturing trace documentation as applicable. If you would like to receive a quote for items you are interested in, fill out and submit an Instant RFQ form through our website and a dedicated account manager will be in touch to supply a personalized solution to your needs in just 15 minutes or less, 24/7x365.


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March 19, 2021

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