The problem with most aircraft towbars and tugs is that the operator can’t see what’s happening with the wingtips and tail, so extra personnel are always needed when moving an aircraft into a tight spot. Krefeld, Germany-based Mototok International (Booth 5539) has solved this by using a wireless remote-controlled tug system for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, which can be operated by one person standing at any spot while moving the aircraft.
The Mototok tug is a battery-powered wheeled platform with a mechanism that lifts the nosegear of an airplane or wheeled helicopter. Various sizes are available with nosewheel towing capabilities ranging from 4,409 to 22,046 pounds (maximum towing capacities of 61,729 to 209,439 pounds, respectively). The Helimo version can lift helicopters equipped with skids. Mototok also makes a camera-equipped tug that can follow painted tracks on the floor, which is useful for moving aircraft assembly lines.
Because the Mototok tug can clamp onto the nosegear from the rear, it can be used to push an aircraft’s nose right up to the wall of a hangar. Once the tug releases the nosegear, the operator backs it away from the aircraft, and there is no need to leave space in front of the aircraft as there is for a towbar-less tug or regular tug. This feature, combined with the wireless remote control, can reclaim up to 40 percent of an existing hangar’s parking space by allowing tighter placement of the aircraft. In one demonstration, Mototok showed that its tug enabled parking eight business jets in a hangar compared to five using conventional tugs.
When loading an aircraft, the operator moves the battery-powered Mototok tug to the nosegear using the wireless remote control. The tug can also be used to grip the nosewheel (or dual nosewheels) from the front. Once positioned at the nosewheel, a hydraulically powered arm affixes the wheel firmly, then the tug lifts the nosewheel off the ground. One Mototok tug can handle a variety of aircraft up to its maximum capacity; the mechanism automatically adjusts to various nosewheel sizes. The company said loading takes less than 15 seconds.
The operator can maneuver the tug at the nosewheel without moving the airplane’s wingtips. This is possible because, once the nosewheel is lifted, the turning axis is the point where the nosegear is mounted to the fuselage, not the centerline of the nosewheel axle. The tug’s precisely controlled hub motors can turn one tug wheel one way and another in the opposite direction, allowing the tug to pivot without moving laterally. An adjustable electronic torque control makes shearing of nosegear turn-stops almost impossible, according to the company.