Aircraft tugs are not the most exciting thing to read about. However, if you are considering the purchase of an aircraft, it's important to plan how you will move the aircraft in and out of your hangar. Ideally, this decision is made before your aircraft arrives. So, this article will offer a little advice on the subject of aircraft tugs.
Most airports have multi-tenant and or community hangars. Some airports will offer - through an FBO (fixed based operator) services to reposition your aircraft in and out of the community hangar. Some will even allow the aircraft owners to keep their personal tugs on site to move their own aircraft. However, most aircraft owners (individual & small business) will prefer their very own private facility - either a tee hangar or a free standing private hangar.
There are many reasons to consider having an aircraft tug as an alternative to physically pushing or pulling the aircraft by yourself or with the help of others. The single biggest reason is to prevent damage to the aircraft let alone one's self. I learned this lesson the hard way while accepting help to move a Stearman. Inevitably, with or without help, you stand the risk of damaging your aircraft when moving it without a tug. Why? Because you or the person helping may end up pushing and pulling at different points on the aircraft not intended for that type of force. The subsequent repairs can easily exceed the investment of an aircraft tug.
Typically, you have three choices of operation when considering the purchase of a tug for your aircraft. You may choose between manual, electric and gasoline powered tugs. For this article I am referring to the type of aircraft tug you walk behind.
Manual tugs are used for very light aircraft on smooth surfaces that have minimal incline. This is a very cost effective way to move your aircraft and negates the help of others. Electric tugs range in size and horsepower and will move most aircraft up to 16,000lbs. Gasoline powered tugs range in size and horsepower as well and offer a nice alternative to electric when a power source is not available to keep an electric tug charged. Both will offer the ability of forward and reverse operation. My own experience says it comes down to merely personal preference between electric or gasoline tugs.
However, if your hangar is not climate controlled and or you're located in the colder parts of the country, a gasoline tug may be the better choice as battery operated aircraft tugs tend to lose performance in extended cold environments.
All aircraft tugs manufactured in the market place will not fit all aircraft. It's important to confirm compatibility before purchasing a tug including but not limited to the aircraft model, weight, nose wheel (with or without a fairing), tail wheel size as well as the specific dimensions under your aircraft from the nose and the tail of the aircraft to the center point of the gear. This will aid in determining the fit and confirming the necessary clearance to successfully operate a tug with your aircraft.