See that Northwest DC-10 over there? As a little joke, let’s grab that baby, tow it behind a hangar somewhere, see how long it takes ’em to notice some-thing’s wrong.” “I don’t think so,” replied 31-year-old supertug driver William Jones. “Come on. It’ll be funny. I promise we’ll put it back later. Probably.” “No, really, I don’t think so.” “Northwest has tortured me for decades. Let’s see if they have a sense of humor.” “They don’t. Trust me. They don’t.” At the time, Jones and I were at Newark International Airport, seated within the surprisingly comfortable cabin of a 255- hp, 35,000-pound Douglas-Kalmar TBL-280— a so-called supertug for which Continental Airlines had just shelled out $481,898. It makes as much torque as two Corvettes and can tow any commercial air-craft except a Boeing 747. If Continental needs to tow a 747, it simply fires up one of the TBL-280’s big brothers—the 540- hp, 53,000-pound TBL-400. That one costs $667,657. At airports around the world, conventional tugs are a dime a dozen. They push aircraft away from gates and pull planes a short distance until they’re clear of ramp traffic. A supertug differs in five ways. First, its cockpit is enclosed—heated,… Read full this story
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