When you take on any task, no matter how big or small, you always want the best tools at your disposal. Instead of pulling a hot tray out of the oven with your bare hands, you need mitts. Instead of trying to break boards with your fists, you need a saw.
More relevantly, instead of trying to move an airplane with your muscles, you need an aircraft towing tractor. However, not just any tractor will do. We did say “the best tools at your disposal.” Here is our advice to small airport managers on how to procure the best towing equipment for their staff.
Learn the Max Pull Weight
We talked about the need for selecting the right size of aircraft tug before, but it bears repeating. The single most important factor to consider when shopping for aircraft towing tractors is the maximum pull weight. This term refers to how many pounds the equipment can pull without stalling or breaking down. The most powerful ones can haul hundreds of thousands of pounds.
While heavyweight machines may seem like the most useful, they may not be must-haves. They are expensive, and small airports rarely if ever service aircraft heavy enough to justify using such heavy-duty equipment. You may be better off with smaller tugs, which carry between 6,000 and 15,000 pounds. Just make sure that the ones you have are sufficient to pull the planes that visit your airport.
Consider Your Airfield’s Slopes
Does your airport rest on an entirely flat surface? There are almost certainly a few inclines on the terrain, whether by design or due to the lay of the land. We only bring this up because even the smallest dips and bumps can cause trouble for your tug.
See, the weight of an aircraft at max capacity may seem fixed, but it is actually a variable. The factor that can affect how much it weighs is gravity. If the plane has to go up a slope, the force of gravity makes it heavier. If it gets heavier, it may be harder for your tug to move it. Keep this in mind when looking at max pull weight. “Just strong enough” may not be strong enough.
Get the Right Wheels
Airfield surfaces present another potential difficulty for aircraft tugs. Imagine getting a machine that is promoted as running smoothly, only to find that it cannot handle your runway. Is the machine just shabbier than advertised? Or is it just designed for gravel and concrete, and your runways are dirt or grass?
This example is not meant to shame airports whose airfields are actual fields. It just demonstrates that airports should choose tugs whose wheels suit their terrain. If you find one whose tires are inefficient but whose performance is too good to pass up, do not worry. You can replace the tires with something more compatible.
Avoid Postings on Used Goods
Airport equipment can come with intimidating price tags. For that reason, some people turn to postings on sites like Craigslist, seeking great deals on lightly used, good-as-new tugs. We strongly advise against this approach. Your intentions may be good, but the products may be worse for wear than they appear. You only have the seller’s word, and you will only know its true condition after shelling out for it.
Instead of taking risks on potential scams, you should look into brand-new equipment. You not only get guarantees of zero wear and tear, but also insurance, warranties, a returns policy, and a steady supply of compatible replacement parts. None of these perks are available on Craigslist.
Choose Between Electric and Gas Power
There are two kinds of aircraft towing tractors out there. One runs on batteries that require recharging every so often. The other consumes gasoline instead of electricity. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages. You should carefully weigh before making your selection and see which one’s trade-offs are more acceptable.
For example, electric-powered aircraft tugs do not release noxious emissions and produce little to no noise during operation. These are the eco-friendly solutions, reducing both noise pollution and other kinds of pollution. With that said, gas-powered aircraft tugs usually carry lower price tags. They may also provide more power and work better in low temperatures or tough weather.
Check the Weather
Speaking of weather, the conditions in your airport’s area can present significant challenges to your operations. Any equipment you get must be sufficient for handling the toughest phenomena that you can reasonably expect. Otherwise, Mother Nature may punt your tug, and your investment may quickly go down the drain.
For example, does your area experience regular rainfall? Your tractor should be waterproof, in case it gets left out in a shower, and it should perform well while running through puddles. Airports in regions that see snow should get tractors with wheels that can tread through the sludge. Whether your local environment is wet and humid or dry and sandy, you must get equipment that can handle it.
Cost is always a priority when shopping for equipment. With that said, we must stress that it cannot be the only priority. Saving money by buying cheap is a short-term gain. However, you may need to get a new tractor sooner than desired — which, ironically, means paying more. Spending a little extra on a more durable tug may hurt a little, but it will pay off if its lifespan is extensive.
Aircraft tugs are an investment. You will want them to last as long as possible, and you will want to get your money’s worth from their performance. When you shop for aircraft towing tractors, look into their estimated lifespan and ask about warranties. The short-term loss may lead to a long-term gain.
Shop with Trustworthy Aircraft Towing Tractor Retailers
Where can one even get high-quality aircraft towing tractors? A quick online search can pull up thousands of results, but not all of them will be in your best interest. You may be best off sticking with trustworthy retailers, supported by positive reviews and good word-of-mouth.
Powertow can be that supplier for you. We offer a variety of excellent aircraft tugs designed for smaller planes. We can also help you with long-term aftercare and replacement parts. Visit our site and learn more about our products and services today.