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Proper Procedures For Using An Aircraft Towbar

An aircraft towbar is an extremely helpful piece of equipment for towing airplanes. But using a towbar can also can be extremely dangerous if the proper safety procedures aren’t put in place and used on a regular basis. By implementing the proper guidelines for using aircraft towbars, you’ll prevent potential injuries, accidents and fatalities.

Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. For complete operating instructions, always refer to your operation and service manual.

1. Use The Proper Aircraft Towbar And Head

Prior to every use of a tug, you need to first verify that you’re using the correct aircraft towbar and tow head for the type of plane being moved and the tug being used to prevent damage or injury. You’ll also need to make sure all linkages and moving parts are well lubricated and thoroughly check for wear and tear.

It’s also incredibly important to check the body or tube of the towbar for cracks and straightness. Taking the time to check now can save you a lot of money and trouble  down the road. If a crack is discovered, contact Tronair or an Authorized Service Center for evaluation. If the towbar appears to be bowed from end to end, it should be taken out of service immediately.

2. Inspect The Lift Mechanism

A lift mechanism is used on most wide-body towbars to raise the head of the heavy towbar to meet the nose gear. This mechanism is also used to lift the towbar wheels above the ground once the towbar is connected to the airplane. Check the manual pump to make sure the fluid is at a proper level and that there aren’t any leaks. You should also inspect the lift cylinder for leaks, cracks and a deteriorating outer sleeve. If anything looks amiss, it should be repaired or replaced before use.

3. Examine The Wheels And Carriage

Before each use, aircraft towbar wheels need to be properly examined. Hardware should be checked for tightness, and wheels should be checked for straightness, dents and cracks in and around the lug holes. You should also check the rotating carriage and axle shaft for cracks, straightness and tightness.

If loose lugnuts are found, simply tighten them. For any other visible damage to the wheels or carriage, your aircraft towbar should be repaired or replaced before use.

Check your owner’s manual for general maintenance guidelines, like when wheel hubs should be disassembled and cleaned, bearings should be inspected and repacked with grease, and wheel seals should be replaced.

4. Verify The Right Type Of Coupler Is In Use

A coupler should match its’ intended purpose and parameters. Damage to the towbar or aircraft can occur when towing with the following types of couplers: lift head, swivel hook, vertical side switch latch and standard-duty latch. Using incorrect couplers or damaged couplers can cause issues ranging from a small inconvenience to serious financial loss or personal injury.  These incorrect couplers are actually known to cause binding and failure in the eyebolt. The two clear indicators of eyebolt binding are:

  1. Wear on the outside diameter of the eye

  2. And indentations on the inside diameter of the eye

Eyebolt failure will begin at the head of the eye. Tronair typically recommends using an E-style hitch with a properly sized pin to eliminate eyebolt binding.

5. Check The Shear Pins

Shear pins carry the bulk of the load when transporting aircraft. These pins are specifically designed to break once they reach a certain PSI limit to lessen the potential for damage to the airplane. Shear pins are most commonly found on the tow head but can sometimes be located in the towbar shock assembly. Remove the shear pins and check them for straightness, cracks and indentations prior to use. If a pin looks in any way suspicious, it should be replaced. Also check the shear pin bushings. If the bushings are chipped or cracked, they must be replaced. Only manufacturer-approved shear pins and bushings should be used. Purchasing spare shear pins for rapid replacement is also recommended.

6. Use Proper Eyebolt and Hitch Pins

Verify that you’re using the proper eyebolt and hitch pin size before towing or pushing an aircraft. A correct size eyebolt should only make contact with the hitch pin. You should be able to see a gap between the outside diameter of the eyebolt and the coupler faceplate. If this is not the case, please contact Tronair.

7. Check The Towbar Connection

To avoid possible aircraft damage, the towbar should always be attached to the aircraft first. You’ll need to verify that the aircraft towbar is securely connected to the aircraft, at which point it can then be connected to the tractor.

The aircraft towbar should be as horizontal as possible. The angle between the tractor and towbar should be about 90 degrees. Damage to the towbar or aircraft can occur from an excessive towbar angle during towing operations. If needed, use pintle hooks to make sure the towbar is as level as possible during towing and pushback. These hooks help to prevent contact of towbar wheels with the ground during towing.

The maximum angle between the ground and the towbar should be five degrees. Keep in mind that damage to the towbar can occur from pushing the aircraft with the towbar jackknifed to the tug.

8. Maintain Correct Towing Angle

When transporting an aircraft with a towbar, it is recommended that the towing angle not exceed 45 degrees. Damage to the towbar or aircraft can result from towing or pushing an airplane while maintaining too sharp of an angle between the tractor and towbar. When making turns, a large sweeping radius should always be used.

Understand that each towbar has its own owner’s manual and guide for proper procedures and upkeep for using and maintaining the towbar. You should follow these instructions carefully.

Browse Our Selection Of Popular Aircraft Towbars Today

Tronair offers towbars for commercial and non-commercial aircraft for a variety of applications. Each was designed to optimize both safety and efficiency. No matter what kind of aircraft towbar you need, we have you covered. Have a question or need more information? Reach out to our customer service department today.

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