When transporting an aircraft around the airport runway, the towbar is an essential tool to have and maintain. The towbar allows for attachment to the nose landing gear or wheel of the aircraft, and then is pulled by hand or a tractor. For smaller aircraft, this prevents damage that may be caused if the aircraft is pulled by the propellers, and provides the possibility to move larger aircraft in general. While some aircraft have the capability of reverse thrust, this can present issues such as waste of fuel, damage to nearby hangers, gates, and equipment, as well as cause sand and debris to get into the engine. As a result, the towbar proves to be the most efficient and safe method for a towing operation. In this blog, we will discuss how to safely operate a towbar and each aircraft towbar part to be aware of during checks and procedures.
First of all, one should always ensure that they are utilizing the right towbar and head before proceeding with a towing operation. Using the wrong type could cause damage to the aircraft, or present a risk of injury to the handler(s). Using the correct coupler for the aircraft that you are moving is also important as damage can be caused to the aircraft, resulting in great financial expenditures. On top of that, a wrong coupler can also cause failure of the eyebolt. The coupler should always have a gap between the eyebolt and coupler faceplate, and the eyebolt should only contact the hitch pin. The hitch pin should also be the correct size for use with the eyebolt.
During this time, the towbar and its connection to the aircraft should be checked for any damages, incorrect attachments, or other issues. Lifting mechanisms of the towbar should be able to lift the towbar wheels off of the ground once attached, and any leaks of the manual pump or the presence of a deteriorating outer sleeve is a clear sign that the towbar either needs to undergo repair or replacement before it is safe to use. Furthering the checks of the wheels, the wheels should be straight and free from damage. The rotating carriage also should be free from cracks and be installed straight and with proper torque. Lastly, look for damage or wear on any bearing, wheel seal, axle, and axle shaft of the wheels. Shear pins are an important asset to towbar operations, as they are designed to snap when overstressed to protect the aircraft. Before operation, shear pins should always be checked to ensure they are operable.
When you are ready to begin towing, make sure that the towbar is attached to the aircraft securely before it is connected to the tug or tractor. During operation, the towbar needs to be at a horizontal, near 90 degree angle to avoid damages and to provide optimal performance. Pintle hooks are a useful tool to help level the towbar. Too great of an angle between the towbar and aircraft can also damage the aircraft as well. Lastly, when making turns while moving the aircraft, always avoid too quick of turns or any turn that could cause damage to any component.
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