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March 2012 airport Cooperative Research Program Sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration Responsible Senior Program Officer: Michael R. Salamone Research Results Digest 15 Use of Towbarless Tractors at Airports--Best Practices This digest presents the results of ACRP Project 04-07A, "Best Practices for Managing the Use of Towbarless Tractors at Airports." The study was conducted by a research team under the leadership of Ricondo & Associ- ates, Inc., with Colleen Quinn acting as the Principal Investigator. 1Introduction to-gate towing, and maintenance towing can be carried out faster than with conven- 1.1Background tional towbar tractors, minimizing impacts Towbarless tractors (TBLTs), also to airport operations. known as towbarless tow vehicles (TLTVs), While some airports, airlines, and ser- are used to tow aircraft on the airport. TBLTs, vice providers have developed standards as the name implies, do not use a towbar but specific to their operation of TBLTs, no instead use a pick-up device located in the industry-wide guidance exists for this type center of the vehicle to cradle the nose gear of operation. Several incidents involving tires in order to provide direct maneuver- TBLTs have raised awareness of the need ing of the aircraft. TBLT operations have to establish "Best Practices" guidelines for increased in recent years due to the superior TBLT operations. maneuverability provided by these vehicles and a renewed focus on energy and environ- 1.2 Development of Best Practices mental conservation. The absence of tow- Co nte nts bars and the higher operating speeds mean The use of TBLTs varies from airport to 1 Introduction, 1 that aircraft movements, pushbacks, gate- airport but is generally increasing. Although 2 Definition of Terms, 2 a TBLT represents a large up-front capital 3TBLT Operator cost, it has several benefits over traditional Requirements, 4 towbar tractors, including the following: 4TBLT--Vehicle Requirements, 5 More secure control of the aircraft and greater responsiveness; 5Aircraft-Under-Tow R equirements, 6 Simplicity of use and reduced opera- 6Towbarless Tractor tor training; Procedures, 7 Allowance for operation in the entire 7 Communication, 10 airport environ, including movement 8Operator Responsibilities, 11 areas, without impacting airport 9 Weather, 12 operations; Elimination of the need to maintain 10Emergency/Abnormal Procedures, 12 multiple towbars (for each aircraft 11Future Towbarless Tractor type); and Operations, 13 Towbarless tractor after disengaging from an Energy and environmental conser- 12 Reference Material, 13 aircraft nosewheel. vation.