Why You Should Never Use a Baggage Tractor as an Aircraft Tug


To some, aircraft tugs and baggage tractors might seem like two sides of the same coin. They're both large pieces of equipment with four wheels and a job to do at airports worldwide – it can be easy to mix them up. Some might even go so far as to attempt to use a baggage tractor as an aircraft tug or vice versa. But is there really any harm in getting the two mixed up? Well, it turns out that yes, there is. Using a baggage tractor as an aircraft towing tug is highly inefficient, costly and could even end up as a potentially dangerous mistake on the operator's part.

Aircraft tugs are explicitly designed to move aircraft – it's their primary purpose and function. A cargo or baggage tug cannot be repurposed as an aircraft towing tug in order to move an airplane. Like those available at Eagle Tugs, aircraft tugs are purposefully engineered and designed with specific qualities that give them the capability to perform aircraft tows and pushbacks safely. Even with a simplistic, low-profile look, airplane tugs are known for superior functionality and reliability. That's not something you can claim with every vehicle.

On the other side, baggage tractors are purposefully engineered to transport cargo and baggage carts with ease. Just because they are in use at an airport does not mean they can move aircraft. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between airplane tugs and airport baggage tugs, and why mixing them up could prove disastrous for your airport.

What Can Happen If You Use Baggage Tractors In Place of Aircraft Tugs?

There are countless reasons why you shouldn't attempt to use a baggage tug as an aircraft tug. The biggest (and most obvious) reason that trumps the rest is that baggage tractors are intended to move carts and cargo dollies, not multi-million dollar aircraft. Each operation on a baggage tug has its own unique set of requirements separate from airplane tugs. But there is more to it than that. Here are a few more of the biggest reasons to use the proper equipment for the appropriate aviation tasks.

Using Baggage Tractors Can End Up Costing You More In the Long Run

When you compare the prices of an aircraft tug and an airport baggage tug, you may be tempted to go for the cheaper option of the two. Baggage tractors are less expensive than the average airplane tug, but because you're using it for an incorrect function, it will actually end up costing you more in the long run.

  • Baggage tugs lack all-wheel drive, a necessity in power when moving aircraft.
  • Baggage tugs don't offer an ergonomic operator station.
  • An airport baggage tug has reduced front-end control due to its uneven weight distribution. If your equipment is entirely out of balance, you could cause severe damage to the aircraft when attempting to stop or turn.

Aircraft tugs have towing capacities that directly match the weight of an aircraft for more efficient, safe and reliable pushback and towing operations than a baggage tractor could perform. If you attempt to tow an aircraft with a baggage tractor with inadequate pound-force capabilities, you'll not only completely wreck the baggage tug, but you'll cause significant damage to the aircraft as well. As you may know, neither of these pieces of equipment are cheap, so you'll be spending more on repair costs than if you would if you purchased an airplane tug in the first place.

Airplane tugs also provide a lower through-life cost when compared to baggage tractors, even though they provide more complex and demanding functions. Baggage tractors offer a lower up-front cost, but if misused, it will end up costing more in repairs or replacement than purchasing the proper equipment from the jump.

Aircraft Tugs Employ Specific Design Elements to Get the Job Done

We've already briefly touched on the design of aircraft tugs vs. baggage tractors. It makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the specific functions of these types of equipment. Think of it in terms of a high-end truck vs. a sedan. You cannot use a sedan to go off-roading on a mountain; it simply wouldn't work. Aircraft towing tugs use specific features and design elements to complete aircraft transports safely and securely. Some of these examples include:

  • An aircraft tug's 50/50 even weight distribution makes braking and turning a more controlled effort.
  • Aircraft towing tugs are designed with visibility and sightlines in mind for a perfect field of view when transporting an aircraft. Like our top-of-the-line Bobtail tractors, baggage tractors are often enclosed cabs with multiple blind spots.
  • Built-in safety features of airplane tugs, such as front and rear hitch sight tunnels, provide operators the confidence and peace of mind to safely and efficiently accomplish an aircraft tow or pushback.
  • Baggage tugs do not have any safety features built into an aircraft tug including speed limitations, all wheel drive and torque controls
aircraft tugs

Move Your Aircraft the Right Way With Help From Eagle Tugs

Don't jeopardize your employees or aircraft by using a baggage tractor as an aircraft towing tug. Move your aircraft and transport baggage with equipment made to get each job done right. At Eagle Tugs, we offer a wide selection of both aircraft tugs and baggage tractors perfectly suited to meet your airport's needs. With the proper equipment, you'll be able to keep your flightline safe, free of accidental repair costs and operating at peak efficiency year-round. Learn more about the aircraft tugs and baggage tractors available through Eagle Tugs, and request a quote today.

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