Why Aircraft Tugs are Useful
Aircraft taxiing is a complex procedure, often involving multiple aircraft that are taking off, landing, loading passengers, and delivering them to their destination. It is important that there is safe and efficient movement of all aircraft throughout the aerodrome, and a means of aircraft being able to travel from the gate to the takeoff point. Many aircraft do not have the ability to even reverse, making movement from the gate near impossible. To solve this, a procedure known as pushback is used and is conducted by aircraft tugs.
An aircraft tug, or a pushback tractor, is a low profile vehicle that is able to fit under the nose of an aircraft and provides for the movement of aircraft from the gate. Even if an aircraft has the ability to reverse, there poses many issues with using it. Aircraft power is created by the engines, which in turn creates thrust. If this was used at the gate for reversing, it could pose a serious risk for personnel around the engine, possibly damage equipment and the gate, and cost a great amount of fuel. Using thrust at such a low speed for reverse could even damage the engine, creating another reason to not use such a method. With aircraft tugs, any aircraft can be safely and optimally moved around as needed anywhere in the aerodrome.
Aircraft tugs have multiple ways that they can be attached to an aircraft, and some of these include bypass pins that are installed into the nose gear, or by using a towbarless tractor which lifts the nose of the aircraft and tows it around. Israel Aerospace Industries has even designed a semi-robotic tug called TaxiBot which is controlled by the pilot and allows for quick and efficient taxiing to the takeoff point. This makes it so that the engine does not even need to be turned on until shortly before takeoff, saving a great amount of fuel. As pilots have poor reverse visibility, and reversing with the aircraft can prove to be dangerous or impossible, aircraft tugs prove to be an invaluable asset to aircraft taxiing.