• What is pushback:

    How do plane reverse on airports?

Photo: Teacoolish on Wikimedia Commons

One of the first sensations that every airline passenger experiences, after sitting in their seat, is that the plane is moving backwards away from the terminal, but do planes have a reverse gear?

Although commercial aircraft are equipped with powerful reversing systems, which allow them to brake quickly and efficiently, they do not have any system that allows them to move the aircraft backwards. This is where ground crews come into play with pushback tractors.

As you know, aviation is a complex machine in which all the gears are necessary for everything to work perfectly. Today we talk about an essential task at airports, we tell you what pushback is and how it is performed.


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What is a pushback tractor?

At larger airports, aircraft parking positions are distributed so that the number of aircraft connected to the terminal is maximised. This is obviously done to utilise all available space and maximise the airport’s operational capacity.

The problem is that it eliminates the possibility of the aircraft being able to turn on their own and, as we have already mentioned, the aircraft have no reverse gear. So this is where the pushback tractor comes into play.

The pushback tractor, also called a tow tractor or tow tractor, is a vehicle that tows aircraft from the jetway to the taxiway.

So, how is pushback done?

In order to pushback an aircraft, ground handlers must insert the pushback tractor supports underneath the nose wheel of the aircraft. This support is known as a towbar.

Once in place, the powerful pushback hydraulics are able to lift the nose wheel, making the aircraft manoeuvrable on the ground.

Once the pilots get the go-ahead from the tower to start the pushback, they tell the ground crew which direction the aircraft should be facing and they move the aircraft.

What is steering pin

Another of the ground crew’s duties is to remove the steering pin once the pushback is complete.

If you don’t know, the steering pin is a bar that is inserted into the nose wheel of the aircraft and prevents it from being moved from the cockpit while the pushback is being performed.

If you notice, once the pushback is finished, the coordinator and the ground crew say goodbye to the pilots, this is done to indicate that everything looks normal around the aircraft. As they say goodbye, they move a piece of red cloth which is the ‘remove before flight’ which contains the steering pin.

You can find out more about communications between pilots and ground staff in our post on airport marshallers.

Mototok, the future of pushback operations

Today, more and more companies are using the Mototok, a pushback robot-tractor that is much more compact and can be remotely controlled by the flight coordinator.

Moreover, being electric, it reduces emissions by almost 60%, which helps to improve air quality at airports and, of course, is an advance in sustainability.

In the video below, you can see up close how the Mototok works… It’s amazing how effortlessly it lifts the nose wheel!

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