The Ground Handling Blog

Mototok's blog for Hangar Professionals

Written by Mototok on November 29, 2016 // 5:00 PM

8 Advantages of Electric Aircraft Tugs


Let’s talk about aircraft tugs. Most of you still own traditional tow tractors with gas engines - a solution that worked more or less reliably for many years. There is a viable alternative though: Electric aircraft tugs, a relatively new technology that has much to offer. And while electric whizzes might give a DIY electric aircraft tug a shot, for all others, we have summed up the advantages of existing state-of-the-art models. And in all seriousness: Their biggest downside is that they make it so easy to move aircraft that it’s easy to get complacent.

1. No Emission = Good for People, the Environment & Your Pocket

Airlines cause 2% of the world’s CO2 emission, and ground support equipment’s role in this shouldn’t be underestimated. And even though cost for fuel has been in decline, there are other considerations that should be taken into account, e.g. environmental issues and regulatory requirements. Not to mention the pollution of local air – a nuisance and health hazard for residents and staff alike.

2. No Noise with an Electric Powered Aircraft Tug

Same goes for noise: An electric motor does its job silently and without adding to the general racket of hangars and airports. Soothing for everybody’s nerves and health.

3. Remote Control Electric Aircraft Tug = No Hangar Rash  

There aren’t many things that can make an aviator flinch. Hangar rash is decidedly amongst them. After all, depending on the hangar, even the smallest collision can result in a ton of paperwork and a six figure price tag. So, besides working on your gymnastics skills when maneuvering your machines, what can you do?

Obviously, you could build a turntable hangar. (As far as we know, we haven’t been building T hangars in Germany for about 20 years. And you might have heard about Germans being rather efficient minded). Or a fancy  round hangar with nothing but doors on the outside, like the one at EBGB Grimbergen.

Or you could simply buy a remote controlled electric aircraft tug that lets you turn your aircraft on the spot with no wingtip movement, safely fix your nose wheel hydraulically, maybe opt for automatic steering control, and be done worrying. (There’s not many manufacturers offering that solution, as a matter of fact, all of our tugs come with radio remote control).

4. Best Electric Aircraft Tug = Lower Overall Cost

Electric aircraft tugs might seem an investment at first glance, but if you consider follow-up costs and cost savings, you might reconsider your estimation.

Take maintenance: Electric motors are powered by batteries. Meaning, there’s basically nothing there that requires any kind of maintenance: no oil changes, no wear out. Instead, you get a tug with a life expectancy conventional tow tractors dream of at night.

Another example: You probably have seen hangars with 8 planes, and 8 tugs. Begs the question: Why don’t people share one across the hangar? Where’s the famous aviator comradery in that, people? The answer to this lies obviously in the risk of damaging other people’s planes when moving them around. But if you have a device that safely prevents even the clumsiest user from doing any harm - that device would be the perfect candidate for sharing, wouldn’t it?

Then there’s savings in personnel, licenses and trainings. With a tug that is so simple in operation, you don’t need trained or licensed staff. You need a person who’s able to push a button.

One person, singular: Go for a remote controlled electric aircraft tug and you eliminate the wingman and you eliminate manpower needed to move your machines. You don’t need that extra pair of eyes - you can literally see for yourself.

So, what you need is a remote controlled and super-safe-to-use device, and boom: You got the quickest ROI industrywide (yes, we’re talking about our own tugs).

5. Stacks of Planes = Stacks of Money

Ever tried tight turns with a conventional tow tractor? Hard, isn’t it? Electric aircraft tugs are much more elegant in moving planes, though Mototok exclusively provides a system that performs 90 degree turns by turning on the spot, reducing shunting space to an absolute minimum. And due to low height and compact design, exit paths are a thing of the past.

Which, of course, enables the tug operator to use every last inch of the hangar, even allows to stack airplanes - ultimately, that means 40% more hangar space.

6. Tugging small and light or big and heavy aircraft, usable as a GPU or for Pushback, and much more: Electric Aircraft Tugs are versatile

Good electric aircraft tugs are versatile in a whole number of ways: With no exhaust gas, electrically powered aircraft tugs can be used on the tarmac and in production halls and hangars. Their adjustability makes them a fit for any wheel size. And with an additional cable, you can use the battery as a ground power unit. There are even cutting edge models that come with a NTO license for Pushback.

And talking about traction, there’s even more ground to cover (pun intended. We’re German). After all, not everybody is blessed with flat, smooth asphalt that is never slippery, living in dry, warm climate with no rain or snow.

If you are amongst the majority of unfortunate aviators who have to deal with issues like grass, slopes, rain, snow or ice, a tow tractor simply isn’t your best bet, especially when moving heavier planes. Lack of traction and increased rolling resistance can become a serious problem.

Not with an electric aircraft tug. They rely on the principal of tractive effort, which allows them to move very large and heavy objects. By the way: Thanks to special tyres and clever engineering, Mototok aircraft tugs provide superior traction, making them safe for usage even on snow or ice.

7. Comfort - No Matter the Size Of Your A/C

Versatility, adjustability, and not to forget: comfort. Through a fool-proof, hands-free, one-click fixation process that doesn’t require any further equipment, it takes 10 to 15 seconds to attach your plane’s nose wheel to the device, and the batteries are designed to last about 5 years. Depending on the circumstances of usage, they need to be recharged every other day.

8. … and yes: Fun!

Easy-to-use cutting-edge technology with grace and style: Electric devices clearly are cool gadgets. Apparently, the fun goes further - we’ve heard about Rodeo on (non-remote-controlled) tugs once the boss is gone. Obviously, we strongly condemn that (remember, we’re German). You need to have eyes in the back of your head these days. Tut tut tut.


If you want to find out how to improve your performance without that extra pair of eyes, we recommend our eBook.  

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