13 replies

mspcooper

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Member since 09 May 2013

Total posts 345

I'm a low level pilot (meaning i do not fly for commercial airlines). Why cannot airports and airlines use tugs to tow the aircraft closer to the runway from the gate and also bring aircrafts to gates from near the runway?

This would reduce significant fuel consumption, noise etc? I remember this used to happen at LAX few years back, albeit where the aircraft would park 100-200 metres from the gate and the tug would pull you in (not sure why this was for).

blingwad

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Member since 04 Jun 2015

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I think it had been studied by airlines and airports and the negatives outweigh the positives. Yes there would be a reduced fuel burn but this saving is chewed up by two crew needed for the tow, fuel in the tug, extra tugs, lost time, coordination costs.

StuParr

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Member since 01 Mar 2012

Total posts 195

I think for LAX that was due to space issues. An aircraft could not maneuver safely within the confines of the old terminal.

henrus

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Member since 23 Oct 2013

Total posts 768

If you google "why don't tugs take aircraft to the runway" you'll find 100's of answers to your question.


Blingwad basically answered your question and yep mainly time, cost and speed means it's easier to just burn more fuel. Engines need the warm up and you don't really want tugs driving all over active taxi ways (at often slow speeds)

LAX still use tugs at some gates (Terminal 2 comes to mind) and it's due to the terminal and other structures being too close to the gate so a tug is used to reduce the potential damage that could occur from the engines.

mspcooper

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Member since 09 May 2013

Total posts 345

Good to know. Thank you for this information. It is interesting how i never thought of popping this on google. Do you think electric tugs with automation may improve some of these problems? Apart from the engine warm up etc?

henrus

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Member since 23 Oct 2013

Total posts 768

Good to know. Thank you for this information. It is interesting how i never thought of popping this on google. Do you think electric tugs with automation may improve some of these problems? Apart from the engine warm up etc?

Not sure. Speed (how fast they can get around an airport) and Space (space on taxi ways) will always be an issue.


If you pass through Singapore keep an eye out for their new electric tugs (dotted at gates around T2). They're made by a company called MotoTok, do a google image search for "mototok tug singapore" and you'll see what they look like.

They've been designed to be small enough that they can park 1 tug between every two gates and the promo videos just have the tug waiting at the gates for a simple push back (nothing more... nothing less) so I doub't they'll be using them for transport to runways anytime soon.

Rod H

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Member since 06 Mar 2015

Total posts 196

henrus.

Jet engines do NOT need to warm up , they reach operating temperature within very few minutes of starting. The only exception might be when started in substantially sub-zero temps then the oil needs to warm up to within limitations but that is very quick as well.The main reasons for not using tugs has been well explained by others but one huge reason is that there is simply not enough room on taxiways for lots tugs and aeroplanes .

dm12

Member since 08 Feb 2018

Total posts 110

henrus.
Jet engines do NOT need to warm up , they reach operating temperature within very few minutes of starting. The only exception might be when started in substantially sub-zero temps then the oil needs to warm up to within limitations but that is very quick as well.The main reasons for not using tugs has been well explained by others but one huge reason is that there is simply not enough room on taxiways for lots tugs and aeroplanes .

‘Within a few minutes of starting’ sounds the same as warming up to me ;-)

henrus

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Member since 23 Oct 2013

Total posts 768

Rod H. I was under the impression that engine manufacturers suggest a few minute warm-up time. Even if it's just a couple of minutes at a slot restricted airport like Sydney, London, LA etc it would be hard imagine aircraft sitting waiting 2-3 minutes on a taxiway before taking off when the runway could potentially be clear now but not in 2-3 minutes time.

Jedi

Member since 04 May 2018

Total posts 15

Just a question for the specialists at the pointy end with the controls. Can the Jet powered aircraft do the same as the Dash 8s do and shut down one engine when taxing in or at least put in in idle mode (if that's what they call it). I have read that this saves a lot of fuel over time and other things

whoppersandwich

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Member since 11 Dec 2017

Total posts 122

SET (Single engine taxi) can happen occasionally on arrival (never for departure for obvious reasons). It’s entirely at pilot discretion and not many aussie pilots think highly enough of their employers to do this religiously (nor should they...)

Nick Sydney 2

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Member since 22 Jul 2015

Total posts 83

I'm a low level pilot (meaning i do not fly for commercial airlines). Why cannot airports and airlines use tugs to tow the aircraft closer to the runway from the gate and also bring aircrafts to gates from near the runway?
This would reduce significant fuel consumption, noise etc? I remember this used to happen at LAX few years back, albeit where the aircraft would park 100-200 metres from the gate and the tug would pull you in (not sure why this was for).

Last time in and out of T 7 at JFK i recall tugs had to bring the aircraft into the bay. I guess space and safety constraints

Rod H

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Member since 06 Mar 2015

Total posts 196

Just to clarify my statement re. jet engine warm up. I was comparing piston engine and prop jets to pure jets where there is a definite requirement to warm up and that takes quite a few minutes whereas a jet engine is usually at operating temp by the time push back and taxi clearance is obtained.Of course on very cold days the jet will take a little longer but my statement was that it was not normally necessary to take extra time to warm a jet engine up.The only thing to warm up is the lubricating oil for the bearings etc whilst a piston engine/ prop jet has a lot more stuff to warm up to ensure complete operation. In my many years of flying with jet engines I cannot ever recall having to wait to warm up as it usually takes at least 5 minutes + to push and start and taxi to the take off point and by that time all is warm so it does not normally take any extra time. Even if we were towed out it would still take several minutes to start , stabilise the engines , disconnect the tug and then taxi to the take off point so all would still be warm enough. I guess it's splitting hairs but I reckon my statement is quite valid.

ausJCP

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Member since 28 Aug 2014

Total posts 126

The decision to engage tugs is a matter of airport safety and liability, not fuel economics. You'll see tugs more often at busy, dense airports that don't have the luxury of space.

For planes to maneuver on the ground they must engage thrust in their engines, which in turn causes turbulent air (jet blast/prop wash) to be expelled behind them. This is exceedingly dangerous on the apron, where ground staff and equipment operate.

There have been numerous cases of property damage and severe injury caused by jet wash, including in Australia. The wash of a taxiing aircraft at BNE in 2011 was powerful enough to topple a set of boarding stairs -- which unfortunately had a VA pilot standing on them (who was severely injured).

In airports with tight gates and aprons, tugs are used to maneuver planes to/from the taxiway and mitigate the dangers posed by jet wash. This will likely become more prevalent around the world as airports become busier (and pressure increases from safety bodies, insurance underwriters and unions).

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