I came across this photo showing a tug attached in a way I have never seen before. I assume it was used to allow the aircraft closer to the terminal.

Did this require special equipment or modifications to the aircraft?

Was it a common practice before terminals were redesigned to accommodate large aircraft and large tugs.

enter image description here
Source: wikipedia.org

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    $\begingroup$ Man that pic of dear departed Canadian Pacific Airlines a/c is old. Mid 70s. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 1:16
  • $\begingroup$ Seen this done at the old Kuala Lumpur (KUL) airport at Subang. The issue was a lot of stands were designed to take B707s and DC8s. When the 747 came around quite a few had a hard time finding the required space as there were usually buildings in front and taxiways at the rear. In Subang the stand was just in front of the terminal building with just a narrow service road in front. If the pilot was a bit slow to hit the brakes then the tug would not be able to get in front of the nosewheel, thereby requiring the towbar to be positioned behind the nosewheel. $\endgroup$
    – Anilv
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 5:45

3 Answers 3


Yes, this is a perfectly normal practice, still used, especially for tight spaces, as seen in this video moving a 747 into the hangar for service. And no, it doesn't require any special equipment - the nose gear attachment is designed to be used either way.

A still from the video:
enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Are all nose gear designed to be used that way? Is it just a B747 specificity? $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 13:10

While it's uncommon, it appears that many pushback tugs are specifically designed to fit underneath an aircraft like this. This wiki notes that (emphasis mine)

Pushback tractors use a low profile design to fit under the aircraft nose. For sufficient traction, the tractor must be heavy, and most models can have extra ballast added. A typical tractor for large aircraft weighs up to 54 t (120,000 lb) and has a drawbar pull of 334 kN (75,000 lbf).1 Often, the driver's cabin can be raised for increased visibility when reversing, and lowered to fit under aircraft.

This modern aircraft tug is shown next to a 747

Pushback Tug

You can see it fits underneath entirely once the cab is lowered. Since many aircraft have a clearance height similar to the 747, it likely can fit under most large-body aircraft.

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    $\begingroup$ Often, the driver's cabin can be raised for increased visibility when reversing, and lowered to fit under aircraft - that sounds risky, have there ever been any cases where that caused damage to the plane when the operator forgot to lower it before moving under the plane, or accidentally raised it while under the plane? $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 22:05

I worked, as a pilot on the 747, for CPAir, and that was a common method used to push us back. We drove into the gate under our own power.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Av.SE! Thanks for adding first-hand perspective to this thread. Please come back often! $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 3:05

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