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Thread: Electric vs gas tug

  1. #1
    MEdwards's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Las Cruces, NM

    Electric vs gas tug

    Any suggestions on the relative capacity and utility of an electric tug versus a gasoline one? We're looking primarily at Power Tow, but we've researched some others too.

    I'd prefer electric. Seems better to me, fewer problems, but I wonder if they will move the plane as well. It's a Debonair, a bit under 3000 lbs as pushed into the hangar, slightest upslope on the ramp, and a problem bump at the threshold of the hangar.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

    Mike E

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Frederick, MD
    It does depend on the weight of aircraft, and the conditions under which you have to tow. We use both types.

    For a 16,000lb aircraft, an electric tug that picks up the nosewheel can have issues getting over the snow bump which tends to accumulate at the door line during the snowy part of the year.

    An electric tug with 3 wheels is much easier to manoeuvre than one with 2 wheels.

    An electric 2-wheeled tug for a 7600lb aircraft will struggle with slipping if there is ice, moisture, grit or it is a weekday or a weekend And no, I don't like it....

    A petrol gas tug will be susceptible to the cold so needs a little time to warm up. A tug that runs on bottled gas couldn't care less about the cold.

  3. #3
    FlyingRon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    NC26 (Catawba, NC)
    I've got two of the VTHRUST Tuggers which uses a cordless drill as the motive force. A compelling reason to buy it is that the this tug itself is easier for my wife to handle, she has a hard time moving the power tows around . Before we got it, it was me pushing and my wife steering the tow bar to get the plane back in the hangar. The Navion is probably just slightly heavier than your deb.

  4. #4
    Cary's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Fort Collins, CO
    You might consider instead of a tug, get a tow bar that you can attach to a front-mounted hitch on your car or truck. It takes a little practice, but you will be hard pressed to find circumstances in which you cannot move your airplane with your car or truck. Such a tow bar is only about $250--I paid only $200 on eBay.

    Initially I already had a hitch receiver on the front of my pickup to use a portable winch. But such a heavy duty hitch is not necessary to move an airplane around. I made a receiver for my Corolla out of 1 1/2" square steel tubing (actually Class I receiver stock ordered through a local trailer supply house), drilled the tube to match the 2 bolt holes remaining after I removed the Corolla's tow ring, then bought longer bolts that matched the threads of the bolts I removed. I just used the ball mount that I already had to pull a small utility trailer. That worked well, and I used it for a couple of years until I traded off the Corolla for a RAV4. I then transferred the receiver to the RAV4, and all I had to do was shorten it a little with a hack saw and drill new holes--same bolts. The receiver shows, but not obtrusively.

    Moving an aircraft with a car or truck takes some practice and care--it would be very easy to turn the nose gear too far, or to clip a wing on the hangar door frame, by trying to do it too quickly. Painted "tracks" on the hangar floor make it easier, straight runs make it easier (turn the airplane when you taxi in so that the tail points toward the hangar before you shut down), and leaving aft chocks in place on the hangar floor stops the airplane, so long as you don't do anything too fast. But all of those comments apply to a tug, too--any time you use mechanical power instead of human power, there's an element of risk. On the other hand, I've seen lots of airplanes damaged by ham-handed humans, too, so it's not that much more of a risk.

    "I have slipped the surly bonds of earth...,
    put out my hand and touched the face of God." J.G. Magee

  5. #5
    Eric Page's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Chehalis, WA
    Quote Originally Posted by Cary View Post
    I've seen lots of airplanes damaged by ham-handed humans, too, so it's not that much more of a risk.
    He's right; I've done it. I took a rental 172 offline for about a week when I pushed the elevator into a post. Thank goodness for renter's insurance!

    Funny part of the story: The owner was nearby and I summoned him immediately. He was visibly upset, and began mumbling something about fixing it himself. Before I knew what was going on, he was thrusting a screwdriver into the diamond-shaped openings at the trailing edge of the elevator, trying to straighten out the dent! Thankfully, he gave up before doing any more damage.
    Eric Page
    Member: EAA, AOPA, ALPA, NRA
    ATP: MEL / Comm: SEL, Glider / ATCS: CTO
    Map of Landings

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