Types of Airplane Tugs, from Small Aircraft Tugs to Electric Towbarless Tractors


An airplane tug is used to prepare an aircraft for take-off or transport a craft for regular maintenance and repair. It's a crucial component of any airport or hangar's ground support equipment (GSE). In this article, we're taking a look at some of the more common types of aircraft towing equipment available on the market, from small aircraft tugs to electric towbarless tractors, and the many benefits they provide.

There are many different types of portable airplane tugs, each suited to perform special tasks and tow different aircraft. It's important to understand that an average GSE fleet will include a variety of aircraft towing equipment. One type isn't any better than another and each has its own rightful place on the tarmac.

Keep in mind, this is a high-level look at airplane tugs and should not be considered an exhaustive guide. Reach out to the experts at Eagle Tugs for more in-depth product information and help finding the right GSE solution for your needs.

Light Aircraft Tugs

The simplest way to transport small sporting airplanes and other lightweight aircraft is through the use of your bare hands. But this can be cumbersome and labor-intensive at times, and as such, it's best to invest in light or small aircraft tugs to ensure employees have the safe and reliable equipment they need to get the job done right.

A manual, light aircraft tug or aircraft dolly is simple to use and can be managed by one person. Simply adjust the aircraft tug onto the front wheel of the craft and pull. You can then easily maneuver the aircraft, as it's completely supported by the wheels. An electric light aircraft tug is designed around ergonomics, safety and efficiency. This type of electric airplane tug can hitch up to multiple carts without putting any unnecessary strain on employees. This equipment is ideal for transporting light aircraft whether you own a single plane or a small fleet.

Towbar Airplane Tugs

While the manual pull-tug and electric aircraft dolly can get the job done for lighter aircraft, they simply aren't built to be used with a standard passenger plane. This is where the simple and flexible aircraft towbar design comes into play. These electric, gas or diesel-powered tugs utilize aircraft towbars to pull heavy aircraft effortlessly and efficiently. Similar to the pull-tug design, the pull bar attaches to the tip of the aircraft. But instead of being pulled by a dolly, it is towed by an engine-powered tug that resembles a kart. These tugs can be used for a variety of planes and even some specific non-aviation uses.

Keep in mind that while towbar tugs are much more efficient than their manual counterparts, they typically must pull or push aircraft at slower speeds to prevent towbar-related issues during transport. Because of this, towbar tugs aren't always the most suitable choice for taxiing aircraft.

Towbarless Airplane Tugs

The diesel-powered towbarless tug uses a hydraulic system to move large aircraft and transport them to their designated positions on the tarmac. With this type of aircraft tug, the front tip of the plane is lifted using hydraulics, carefully mounted onto the tug and driven into the proper position. This is a much more convenient, efficient and safe method of mounting heavy aircraft onto aircraft towing equipment. Plus, unlike old airplane tractor designs, it allows for more aircraft to be loaded at a faster rate. A single towbarless aircraft tug has the ability to fit a wide range of aircraft and doesn't require any special adapters or towbars. And because there's no towbar, it has a smaller turn radius and can move at much higher speeds — making it perfect for maneuvering through hangars and taxiing aircraft.

Towbarless airplane tugs are growing in popularity due to improved efficiency, versatility and cost-effectiveness. However, traditional towbar airplane tugs are still quite common and can be incredibly useful depending on the specific needs of the operation.

Electric Towbarless Airplane Tugs

Electric aircraft tugs have all the same advantages and features that towbarless airplane tugs offer, but with one major upgrade: electricity. An electric airplane tug is powered by batteries, so there's no expensive refueling or time-intensive maintenance — simply plug it in to charge! Additionally, electric aircraft tugs cut down on noise pollution and harmful greenhouse gas emissions. An electric motor is virtually silent, helping to significantly cut down on aviation-related noise emissions from hangars and airports. And because these airplane tugs run completely on battery power, they don't emit any harmful exhaust, making them safe to use on the tarmac, in hangars and through production halls.

With airports and airliners facing stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions, the use of sustainable, electric towbarless tractors is a smart choice for efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft towing.

A private or commercial airport simply can't function without airplane tugs. These efficient pieces of ground support equipment perform incredibly important tasks and thus need to be durable and reliable. For lighter aircraft, a simple towbar or manual aircraft tug will suffice. For larger aircraft or operations that involve many aircraft, opt for a powered airplane tug. No matter the size of the aircraft, there's a variety of tug technologies and aircraft towing equipment to choose from. While the aircraft tug continues to evolve, it's clear that the importance of quality GSE remains.

Let Eagle Tugs Find the Right Aircraft Tug for Your Needs

While this high-level guide to airplane tugs is a good starting point, choosing an electric airplane tug isn't something you should attempt without the help of the professionals at Eagle Tugs. Contact our experts to learn more about our range of aircraft tug models and request a quote today. Our team is proud to provide corporate, regional and military customers with robust, reliable products and exceptional customer service. Discover the right GSE solution for your needs today.

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