7 Strategies for Common Aircraft Towing Challenges

May 7, 2024
Communication, equipment maintenance, adherence to procedures, a safety culture and technology can assist towing operations.

Aircraft towing operations face common challenges. Some are daily, others are once in a while.

Pete Johnson, director of sales and service, Americas, Aero Specialties outlines strategies to address these challenges.

1.      Limited maneuverability – Aircraft can be challenging to maneuver, especially in congested areas. Ground handling staff should be trained on proper towing techniques, including maneuvering in tight spaces and congested areas. Clear signage and designated pathways on the ramp should facilitate safe and efficient towing operations. Wing walkers should also be employed when the operation requires additional eyes.

2.      Variable weather – Adverse weather conditions can impact towing operations. Ground handling staff should monitor weather forecasts regularly and plan towing operations accordingly. They should also consider rescheduling or adjusting operations during adverse weather conditions.

3.      Communication – FBOs should establish and implement clear, standardized communication protocols between ground and flight crews, including using radios, hand signals, or electronic communication devices. In addition, regular training sessions should be conducted to ensure all personnel are familiar with communication procedures and can effectively relay instructions and information during towing operations.

4.      Equipment maintenance – FBOs should develop a comprehensive maintenance program for towing equipment, including regular inspections, servicing, and repairs as needed, and a system should be implemented for tracking equipment maintenance schedules and ensuring compliance with manufacturer recommendations and warranty requirements.

5.      Ramp management – FBOs should collaborate with airport authorities and other FBOs to develop and implement ramp management procedures to minimize congestion and optimize space utilization.

6.      Adherence to procedures – FBOs should provide thorough training to ground handling staff on towing protocols, including weight and balance considerations, aircraft-specific procedures and regulatory requirements. Accountability measures, including regular audits and performance evaluations, should be implemented to ensure strict adherence to towing procedures.

7.      Safety culture – FBOs should foster a safety culture within the organization by promoting awareness, accountability and continuous improvement in safety practices. This can be done by encouraging open communication and reporting safety concerns or near-misses to identify areas for improvement and implement corrective actions.

Technology can assist towing operations. For instance, by integrating AERO Specialties’ SiPsHitch Linear Force Monitoring System into aircraft pushback tugs and tow tractors, operators gain real-time alerts to potential overstress situations, mitigating the risk of costly damage to aircraft, tugs and other equipment.

 “It offers additional benefits such as operator performance improvement, training support and comprehensive data logging capabilities. The system eliminates uncertainty by recording all forces applied to the nose gear, providing invaluable protection for pilots and service providers,” Johnson says.

By implementing these strategies, Johnson notes FBOs can effectively mitigate the challenges associated with aircraft towing operations and ensure safe and efficient ground handling practices.

About the Author

Rebecca Kanable | Assistant Editor

Rebecca Kanable, a veteran journalist, joined Endeavor Business Media's aviation group in 2021. She has worked for various publications, including trade magazines and newspapers.

Contact: Rebecca (Becky) Kanable

Assistant Editor

Airport Business, AMT,

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