Following the positive results after testing the first towbarless aircraft tractor, Swissair ordered the construction of a corresponding tractor type AST-1 A840 with two six-cylinder diesel engines for towing wide-body aircraft up to Boeing B747.
Goldhofer had not only found itself entering the ground support arena, but in 1988 the company’s engineers observed an improvised recovery of a Boeing B747 by a local haulage firm in India. The lightbulbs above their heads shone bright while watching the salvage struggle. The ensuing product was an aircraft recovery system for the recovery and transport of damaged wide-body aircraft.
Goldhofer had discovered a knack for the aircraft tractor and after delivering more than 30 units, the company started the development of the second towbarless generation with digital CAN-Bus technology.
The New Millennium
In 2000 Goldhofer delivered both its 100th aircraft tractor and its 25,000th lowloader. While the experience is lopsided, the new millennium also ushered in business with Air China. As of 2001, Goldhofer had more than 160 tractors on duty for more than 700,000 working hours and had performed over 2,000,000 aircraft movements.
With the creation of the airbus A380 has come the three-axle AST-1 X the biggest towbarless aircraft tractor in the world. The AST-1 X—developed in 2004—is equipped with a maximum of two V8 diesel engines with 440 kW/600 hp each. The AST-1X reaches speeds up to 30 km/h while towing a 300,000 kg aircraft and is slender enough (4,500 x 11,250 mm) to operate in a confined space. Even before the maiden flight of the airbus A380, a pair of AST-1 Xs were presented to Airbus in Hamburg, Goldhofer’s first customer, in March 2005.
Goldhofer’s international grasp around the globe has provided products for the various requirements of any transportation. That 300-year-old forge has evolved into a multi-industry giant for more than 28,000 general road, heavy duty and special transport vehicles in operation in over 70 countries.
Additional information from “Goldhofer: The Chronicle of the Goldhofer AG” by Michael Bammel.