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Chock

Towing an A320

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Couple of pics I took whilst we were towing a British Airways A320 yesterday. One is a bit blurred, but I was more bothered about monitoring the tow than winning a photography award lol.

This aeroplane had a technical issue whilst on Stand 43 at EGCC, which is a stand that gets used a lot by mainly BA and Flybe, so we were towing the aeroplane to Stand 84L to get it out of the way so it could be worked on. That's quite a long tow and it requires four people to do it; there's one guy in the cockpit to work the brakes and operate the APU so the anti-collision beacons can be switched on for the duration of the tow, there's one guy driving the tug, one guy also in the tug on a headset in contact with the guy in the cockpit (that was me), and one guy to stop traffic when it pushes off stand, who then drives a set of steps to the remote stand where it is going, who (should) then also go to the head of the stand and mark the centre line out to assist the tug driver in spotting point when he should the turn onto the stand, stop traffic if necessary, and then position himself at the stop marker for the A320 to help guide the tug to its stopping point It can be difficult to see the centre line from a tug sometimes, especially if it is dark or as in this case, it had rained and the sun was low in the sky creating a lot of dazzle on the surface. I say 'should', because when we reached stand 84, the guy was sat in a truck on his phone in spite of us beeping the horn to get him to do that, so I had to do the spotting for the turn and then hang out of the tug door to guide the driver to the stop point lol! 

One interesting thing which occurred on this particular tow, was that the guy in the cockpit contacted me whilst we were towing and said the APU had shut down. This meant we had no anti-collision beacons, so I let him know we'd hold position and we called the tower to have a follow me car turn up (with its flashing lights), which then drove behind us to alert other people to our presence. On these pictures, you can see a yellow wire running from my headset back along the tug to the socket under the nose of the aeroplane. I have put a few chocks on top of the wire to keep it in place. The various bits you can see on the back roof of the tug include stowage bins for chocks and heavy chequered grating so you can walk safely on it in the wet. The red and white blast screens you can see on one of the pics are where there is construction work going on near stand 101, which we are passing as we head down taxiways Papa and Delta before turning onto Echo to get to 84L, having started off on taxiway Bravo which stand 43 adjoins. 

When on the headset, your job is to help keep a lookout for other aircraft and vehicles on the move, monitor the ATC radio for any instructions regarding the taxiways ATC have assigned you for the tow and any instructions to hold or other stuff like that. You are also the one who lets the guy in the cockpit know when to release or apply the brakes. You are also watch the tow bar closely throughout the tow, just in case the shear pins break (the shear pins are two fused bolts at the head of the towbar which are designed to break if the tug puts too much stress on the towbar, this so that the bar will break off and not transfer any undue force to the nose gear of the aeroplane). If one pin breaks, you would advise the driver to come to a halt, if both pins break, you immediately give the call 'x-ray, x-ray, x-ray, towbar break' on the headset. This tells the guy in the cockpit to apply the brakes and it also tells the tug driver to 'floor it' to get out of the way of the aeroplane, so it doesn't roll over you.

Just such a towing accident happened last week in Thailand, because a tug was towing too fast and turning. This stressed the towbar and broke a shear pin; the tug driver stopped the tug instead of either slowly coming to a halt, or speeding out of the way. As a result, the plane rolled over the tug, bending the towbar in half before the towbar completely broke off the tug's towing hitch, the aeroplane then kept on rolling and because it was in a turn, the aeroplane rolled past the tug with the tug passing down the left side of the aeroplane in between the fuselage and the port engine until it met the wing, whereupon the fuselage crushed the cab, killing one guy in the tug and injuring the other guy. This is why the headset person is necessary.

Edited by Chock
  • Like 4

Alan Bradbury

Check out my youtube flight sim videos: Here

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36 minutes ago, Chock said:

the APU had shut down

tanks a bit dry ......


for now, cheers

john martin

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1 hour ago, vadriver said:

tanks a bit dry ......

Actually, the guy did get the APU going again on that A320, but we stayed with using the follow me car precisely because it was a bit iffy on the reliability front.

It's not uncommon for the APU to be busted on an airliner, all it means is you have to either use an air starter to get the thing going, or connect it to a FEP or GPU when it comes in so that it can keep its lights and avionics operating. Some airliners of course don't even have an APU, for example the ATR-72, which is why they start their number 2 engine on stand in 'hotel mode' when still connected to the power, then that gets disconnected and the prop is engaged as it pushes out.

Fun fact of the day: It's called 'hotel mode' when an aeroplane runs its engine with a brake engaged or clutch disengaged from the prop to prevent it from turning, because the name comes from when ships which are docked do the same thing and the crew use the ship as their hotel rather than going ashore. 😀

One of the interesting things you can tell from that picture, is that on an A320, you can see right under the thing, which is true for most big airliners. This means it is fairly easy to see the centre line when pushing big aeroplanes out. But on things like ATR-72s, Dornier 328s, CRJs, Embraer 145s and Dash 8s, you can't see a lot other than the nose wheel, so if you ever see one of those being pushed out and you think the tug driver is 'all over the place', now you know why!

Edited by Chock
  • Like 1

Alan Bradbury

Check out my youtube flight sim videos: Here

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10 hours ago, Chock said:

now you know why!

thanks alan for your "insights".... i use "hotel mode" before reversing from my car's "hangar".

 


for now, cheers

john martin

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On 2/17/2020 at 10:19 PM, Chock said:

because the name comes from when ships which are docked do the same thing and the crew use the ship as their hotel rather than going ashore. 😀

Hi Chock, 

I am an ex merchant navy marine engineer, and have never heard the above quote. Most ships are powered by their own generators, which run continuously 24/7 whether at sea or alongside. I do very much enjoy your posts, as they are very informative, and tell it as it is. 

Stay safe, Cheers,

 

Neil 

  • Like 1

Neil Ward

CPU Intel Core i7 7740X@4.30Ghz with FrostFlow 240L Liquid Cooling, M/B ROG STRIX X299-E-GAMING, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, RAM G.Skill 32GB DDR4 Ripjaws Blue, 

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21 minutes ago, Freo said:

Hi Chock, 

I am an ex merchant navy marine engineer, and have never heard the above quote. Most ships are powered by their own generators, which run continuously 24/7 whether at sea or alongside. I do very much enjoy your posts, as they are very informative, and tell it as it is. 

Stay safe, Cheers,

 

Neil 

I think it may have been some older ships which did not have the capability to use separate generators to power stuff when tied up. Just so you know where I got that from, I heard this about hotel mode from my uncle, who in addition to being Para, was also in the merchant navy. After that he had a job as a marine repair engineer, where he would be flown all over the world to repair ships when they were in harbour. Specifically, he tended to work on the propeller drive shafts of the ships, sorting out the packing, transmissions and all that kind of stuff, if it had broken, but this was in the 60s and 70s, so I daresay some of the ships he worked on would have been pretty old ones.

My dad was also an engineer, at Faireys, when they made aeroplanes and other large engineering projects (sadly all that stuff is long gone) so there were quite a few engineers in our family and it's probably why I am into that stuff.


Alan Bradbury

Check out my youtube flight sim videos: Here

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24 minutes ago, Chock said:

I think it may have been some older ships which did not have the capability to use separate generators to power stuff when tied up. Just so you know where I got that from, I heard this about hotel mode from my uncle, who in addition to being Para, was also in the merchant navy. After that he had a job as a marine repair engineer, where he would be flown all over the world to repair ships when they were in harbour. Specifically, he tended to work on the propeller drive shafts of the ships, sorting out the packing, transmissions and all that kind of stuff, if it had broken, but this was in the 60s and 70s, so I daresay some of the ships he worked on would have been pretty old ones.

My dad was also an engineer, at Faireys, when they made aeroplanes and other large engineering projects (sadly all that stuff is long gone) so there were quite a few engineers in our family and it's probably why I am into that stuff.

We have a mechanic in our company who retired from the Navy after 20 years. When running an aircraft on a GPU, he always refers to it as “shore power”


Jim Barrett

Licensed Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic, Avionics, Electrical & Air Data Systems Specialist. Qualified on: Falcon 900, CRJ-200, Dornier 328-100, Hawker 850XP and 1000, Lear 35, 45, 55 and 60, Gulfstream IV and 550, Embraer 135, Beech Premiere and 400A, MD-80.

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