And now something completely different for Summer holidays. Arthur Hailey was a RAF pilot who wrote Airport, a novel which later was adapted as a movie by George Seaton. The action is said taking place at Chicago Lincoln International, a fictitious place comparable to O'Hare, while Illinois is under a severe snow storm.

The suspense revolves around a Boeing 707 stuck at an exit, blocking a long runway. Another 707 needs the runway for an emergency landing.

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Source: YT

Bakersfeld, the airport manager, wants to push the stuck plane off the runway with snowplows. Joe Patroni, chief mechanics for TWA wants to save the airplane by moving it by its own power.

Clocks are ticking... airports are closing... fuel is starving... Patroni's cigar has gone out.
Bakersfeld releases the snowplows!

What is today's way to:

  • Prevent a commercial aircraft to be stuck near the runway.
  • To quickly remove an airplane from the runway should that be necessary.

Is there actual cases of aircraft removed à la Bakersfeld?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ American Airlines has a go-team of about 50 volunteers that recover "stuck" aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 7, 2017 at 14:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Aircraft are ditched on aircraft carriers during emergencies (notably the Vietnam war during the Fall of Saigon) but a bit outside the spirit of the question $\endgroup$
    – Bageletas
    Aug 8, 2017 at 2:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In central Africa, passengers might be employed for moving a stuck airliner, but only for a pushback when no ground equipment is available. Sorry, no link - I could not find the source yet. $\endgroup$ Sep 7, 2017 at 7:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just as a purely practical matter, it would seem much more effective to attach a cable from the snow plow(s) to the nose gear (where tugs normally hook up), and tow the plane out of the way. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Sep 7, 2017 at 18:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I just wanted to add a reason it's implausible (or incompetent) for the airport manager to suggest pushing the plane with plows: Airliners are designed to be pushed or pulled by a connector on their nose gear. Applying force to any other part of the aircraft, and especially force strong enough to push an airliner through snow, could damage the aircraft in a way that makes the situation much worse. Simply pushing the gear with a plow could pop a tire. Putting force on the body or wings of the aircraft could tip it off balance and leave it leaning on a wing with one set of gear in the air. $\endgroup$
    – Jared K
    Sep 29, 2022 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


Pushback trucks are called that for a reason, they push aircraft :)

They could be used to push or pull a stuck airliner like you mention, IF the muck isn't so bad they themselves get stuck trying that is. Most AFAIK aren't exactly designed for off road operations.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You could still use your pushback truck to connect to the plane and then a regular cat or so to pull the pushback truck :) $\endgroup$
    – yo'
    Sep 7, 2017 at 7:55
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I was a passenger on a flight into snowy Stockholm. The plane failed to line up with the gate under its own power. The captain came on the PA: "we're going to wait for a tug to sort this out". A short while later: "we're going to wait for a bigger tug..." $\endgroup$ Sep 7, 2017 at 13:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The plows could clear the snow in front of the plane so the tug has a patch of clear tarmac to work with. The plows could clear the taxiway ahead of the plane as the tug pulls it. $\endgroup$
    – Jared K
    Sep 29, 2022 at 18:41

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