Aircraft tugs form a part of ground support equipment or GSE. The function of aircraft tugs is to move aircrafts from hangar to the parking location to prepare for take-off or move the aircrafts from the tarmac to the hangar. Thus, the purpose of aircraft tugs is aircraft towing. Depending upon the type of aircraft to be towed, there are multiple types of aircraft tugs.
Light aircraft tugs
Sports aircrafts and other small aircrafts can be moved using hands and shoulders. Once set in motion, such aircrafts are easy to move by manual efforts. Many small aircrafts can also be moved by pulling on their propellers. However, light aircraft tugs are available to reduce manual labour even for small and light aircrafts. Light aircraft tugs are like dollies which simply need to be attached to the front wheel of the aircraft and pulled. Such tugs are small and light and are usually made of aluminium.
Engine powered tow bar tugs
Tow bar tugs use a pull bar which attaches to the tip of the airplane. These tugs are powered by an engine which runs on electricity, diesel or gas. Thus, there is no manual labour involved in aircraft towing using engine powered tow bar tugs. Such tugs are suitable for towing heavy standard passenger aircrafts as used by airline companies.
Engine powered towbar-less tugs
Such tags are also powered by electric, diesel or gas engine. But there is a fundamental difference between tow bar and towbar-less tugs. Towbar-less tugs do not have a towbar to attach to the front wheels of the aircraft. Instead, a hydraulic mechanism lifts the front wheels off the ground and mounts them on the tug. This makes the movement of heavy aircrafts very easy.
Remote controlled towbar-less tugs
Remote controlled towbar-less tugs are fully electrical advanced versions of towbar-less tugs. These tugs do not consume fossil fuels which makes them environment friendly. Furthermore, remote control means these tugs can be operated from a safe distance from the aircraft and there is no requirement of more than one operator to manoeuvre the aircraft.
How to select aircraft tugs?
First you need to determine whether you need towbar or towbar-less tug for aircraft towing. Towbartugs are not suitable for towing multiple types of airplanes in an airport. This is because one towbar does not fit all kinds of aircrafts and you need to have multiple towbar fittings for various aircrafts. This is very inconvenient. Towbar tugs cannot be used to move the aircrafts at high speed because the towbar can disengage. The turn radius of towbar tugs is high which makes manoeuvring difficult. Towbar-less tugs, on the other hand, are suited to tow all kinds of aircrafts without modifications because there is no tow bar. The turn radius is small which makes manoeuvring through even crowded hangar or tarmac easy. The aircraft can also be towed at high speed because the hydraulically fixed wheels do not disengage from the tug. The one disadvantage of towbar-less tug is that it requires more personnel on the ground. But even this is nullified if you opt for remote controlled version.
The towing force generated by the tug depends upon its engine power. More the engine power, greater is the force. High power engines are required to tow heavy aircrafts. Both electric and diesel engine powered tugs are available.