Which are the aircraft models that need their tail to be supported by a jack when empty?

Wikipedia says this:

Aircraft Tripod Jack

They are used to support a parked aircraft to prevent their tail from drooping or even falling to the ground. When the passengers in the front get off an aircraft, the aircraft becomes tail heavy and the tail will droop..... When needed, they are tugged to the tail and setup by manpower. Once setup, no supervision to the jack is needed until the aircraft is ready to leave.

Are there even commercial airliners that need to be supported this way every time they load / unload? Sounded like a lot of work for ground staff. Was this a legacy equipment thing or still in use today?


  • $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Jan 24, 2016 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ Anecdotally, Dad and some colleagues on a business trip got a chance to look round Concorde in Paris : the guard counted them; six; and asked them not all to go to the rear of the cabin at the same time... $\endgroup$ Jan 24, 2016 at 10:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Quest Kodiak uses these. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Jan 24, 2016 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ The Cessna Caravan also uses tail supports. $\endgroup$
    – MD88Fan
    Oct 18, 2021 at 12:10

5 Answers 5


Tripods are mostly found in cargo aircraft (and combis) as the cg shift is severe there (particularly for front loading). A good example is the Boeing 747s. Also used in DC10/MD11s used as freighters.


Image from reddit.com

Some 747-400 combis also use these, though it is mainly for cargo loading.


Photo: Je89 W. / Source: PlanePictures.Net

Some passenger airliners are prone to tipping (737-900 comes to mind) and are usually supported by a pole rather than by a tail stand (same procedure is used in a KC-135 tanker too). For example, a Boeing 737-932ER with tail support.


Image from airliners.net

The tail supports are not strictly necessary and the loading can be carried out sequentially (from front to back) for safe operation, but are used as a precaution. In some aircraft (like ATR-72 and Saab 340, called pogo sticks) small tubings are attached to the rear fuselage to prevent tipping over when loading/unloading.

ATR 72

Image from theflyingengineer.com

The nose can be tethered to prevent tipping during loading/unloading as done in this Korean Air 747F


Image from koreanair.com

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also in some older aircraft such as 727 the airstairs performed this function. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jan 24, 2016 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure that EVA 747-400 is a combi? The passenger cabin seems to extend awfully far back for a combi aircraft... $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    May 24, 2018 at 22:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Sean how do you see to where the passenger cabin extends? Afaik all 747 combi's have windows that extend all the way to the back with a (moveable) bulkhead in between to separate the cargo and passenger space. The aft cargo bay door is on the other side and not visible in the picture. $\endgroup$
    – MadMarky
    May 25, 2018 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ Your 737 link is dead. Looks like someone didn't pay the bill. $\endgroup$
    – Pheric
    Apr 25, 2019 at 6:19

DC-8 freighters used tail supports as a safety precaution. As I remember, if you loaded them properly the support wasn't needed, but people didn't always do that. The cargo door was forward of the wing. I've long since thrown out my DC-8 weight & balance manuals, but as best I remember, the proper protocol was to put the desired most forward ULDs in first and slide them to their positions forward of the door. Next you would put in the rearmost ULD, but then move it just far enough aft to get the next ULD on, then move it and the previous one just enough aft to get the next one on, and so on. At some point you had enough weight forward of the main gear to start moving pallets all the way to the rear. If you miscalculated, the airplane would sit on the installed tail support. This reportedly happened at Newark, as I remember, in the early 1990s, but they had neglected to put up the tail support. The airplane sat on it's tail.

The same attention to balance was also needed when unloading. Read this link for an unloading accident when the tail stand collapsed, causing one of the cargo pallets to roll down to the tail of the cargo compartment. Three loaders were able to get out of the way of the runaway pallet, but the fourth got his foot caught, sustaining serious injury.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Edited to clarify what, precisely, injured the fourth loader; the way it was worded previously made me originally think that he was injured when the DC-8's tail sat on his foot. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    May 24, 2018 at 22:46

I work for UPS, we load A300's almost every day. It is the only aircraft we use the tail stand for. Across the airport at FEDEX, they also get A300's but they dont use the tail stand, So i guess it depends on the company.


Back in the day I was weight and balance / loading qualified for all B747 types. The tail-stand is promarily used for freighters. If I'm doing a full load change (eg all off and reload) with a crew familiar with the aircraft .. , then I wouldn't be too worried about tipping a freighter. BUT for a 747 Combi I would say that a tail-stand is indispensable! Especially for a transit flight where everything is happening all at once.

A fully loaded 747 combi and you have to have your wits about you when working around this aircraft.

The MD11 freighter was another aircraft you had to watch out for. An empty plane will have its CG (centre of gravity) right up the back but once fully loaded the CG will be at the forward limits! To get it in trim you have to load all the heavy stuff back in the rear of the aircraft but this will require a careful loading sequence as the maindeck cargo door is in front.


Aircraft of any type should be loaded From the front cargo hold .. tripod must Be fitted to rear of aircraft . The loadmaster must carefully step by Step take the right procedures . Once certain amount of load is put in The front cargo hold a thumps up is Indicated to rear FMC driver to commence Loading .

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    $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Oct 18, 2021 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Aviation. If you'll take the tour, you note that we prefer answers here that are somewhat detailed and, preferably, add something that isn't already mentioned in existing answers. Please feel free to edit your answer to include more details or some references to support it or some other info that hasn't already been posted. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 19, 2021 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ Your first sentence seems to imply that for aircraft of any type, a tripod must be fitted to the rear of the aircraft. If this isn't what you mean, please rephrase. $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2022 at 3:17

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