The Ground Handling Blog

Mototok's blog for Hangar Professionals

Written by Mototok on February 23, 2017 // 2:00 PM

How to find the perfect helicopter tug


They might be agile and acrobatic in the air, but on the ground helicopters are as mobile as a rock. A helicopter tug is the necessary way to go. From wheeled to skidded: Here’s everything you need to know.

Finding the right tug: wheeled or skidded?

The first and most important distinction when it comes to helicopter tugs is what they have “down there”: Does your whirlybird stand on wheels or skids? Smaller, lighter helis are often skidded so they can land in difficult terrain, for example rescue helicopters that retrieve victims from the mountains. Meanwhile, larger copters need wheels because skids couldn’t support their weight. Obviously, these two concepts need fundamentally different solutions. Let’s have a look at both.

You don't have a helicopter yet and need to take it a step back? Then check out the article of our colleagues at Assets America on the costs of helicopters.

Tugs for wheeled helicopters

What sounds like something special is actually the same thing you use for airplanes. Whether you use a non-motorized tool that helps you tow the aircraft by hand or you let an electric AGV do all the work – the tugs don’t care what’s attached to the wheel they are towing, really. The big advantage: If you are using a universal, towbarless tug you only need one for your whole hangar, regardless whether you have planes or helicopter in there.

Tugs for skidded helicopters

Finding the right tug for a skidded helicopter is a little more tricky. The skids must not drag above the ground at any time. Therefore, the whole aircraft has to be elevated. There are countless methods to do that.

  • You can put the helicopter on a huge moving platform (that occupies very much space and makes it difficult to maneuver).
  • You can lift it by pressing the fuselage up (damaging possible equipment such as cameras attached to the helicopter from below).
  • You can use tugs with extendible arms (that you will always have to attach manually in a time-consuming procedure).
  • You can do it with the help of an adaptive tug that lifts the helicopter completely autonomously.

Most tugs only fit a small range of helicopter models, so if you have several different choppers you will need an individual tug for each one – unless you choose a tug that is universal.

Looking for a tug for skidded helicopters? Take a look at our incredibly adaptive Helimo.

Helicopter tugs: the most important factors

As you might have noticed, getting a universal tug is quite a clever thing to do. It saves you ready cash, after all. But what else should you consider when you get a new heli tug?

  • Make sure the tug is as agile as possible. You will save a lot of nerves and parking space if you can simply move the aircraft the exact way you want it.
  • Go for a flat tug, the flatter the better. Depending on the helicopter you want to tow, there can be many special attachments to it like cameras or other equipment. Minimize the risk of damaging these applications by using a flat tug that keeps a safe distance.
  • The tug should adapt to your helicopter, not the other way around. Choose a tool that can be applied in many different ways so that it’ll match every aircraft perfectly.
  • Talking about heights: consider the height of the helicopter itself, too. If you lift it up it is higher than usual and it has completely other dimensions than an airplane, too. Watch out for obstacles, other aircrafts, or objects you might hit when towing your heli.

If you consider these points you should be good to go. But when will you actually need a helicopter tug?

Areas of application for helicopter tugs

The first area of application is obvious: to get a helicopter into and out of the hangar. But there are many more situations that require a quality helicopter tug. Take look at MROs or helicopter manufactories. Everyday, they have to move helis from A to B and they have to do it quickly and safely. Other locations where you might encounter a helicopter tug are on heliports atop of skyscrapers or even at sea! If you are on an offshore platform with only one heliport and there is an emergency in which you have to quickly clear the platform – you need to have a helicopter tug that you can rely on.

Conclusion to tugs for helicopters

A perfect helicopter tug fits your needs and your aircraft. A universal tug saves you money and nerves, but you should also pay attention to special equipment applied to the helicopter. Choose a versatile tug that can adapt to any given situation.

By the way: Our Helimo is probably the only tug that fits nearly any skidded helicopter, regardless of weight, size or any attachments. The secret? It’s unique concept of loading. Learn more about it here or get in touch with us right now to find the perfect helicopter tug for your business!

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