Aircraft tow bars
It might seem, if you’ve ever thought about it, that there should only be one type of aircraft tow bars for an aircraft. Well, as with most things in life, form often precedes function. This means that different designers of airplanes (which all essentially function roughly the same) rely on forms for design that are as unique as their designers. So, while it might make logical sense to have just one “universal” airplane tow bar, reality is quite a different thing.
There are many different types of airplane tow bars. Because the noses of airplanes are all designed differently, the type of tow bar you’ll need will vary depending on the type of plane you have. That is, the type and size of tow bar you purchase for your aircraft will certainly depend on what model airplane you’ll be towing. That said, there are universal tow bars that may be your best option if you’ll be towing many types of airplanes.
A lot of the reason we find so much variation in tow bar and nose design has to do with the load the aircraft will be expected to support. An aircraft rated to carry X amount of load is going to certainly have different tow requirements from an aircraft rated to carry Y amount of load.
Depending on the type of work you do, you may have to make a decision on electric versus non electric tows. Obviously the electric version would be more aligned with moving heavier equipment; but, it’s not unheard of for someone with a larger budget (and less willingness to hand tow) to use an electric tow.
A fancy feature found on the most heavy duty tow bars are shear bolts. These bolts will shear off in such a way as to minimize damage should the load being towed be in excess of the tow bar’s rating.
Really, a tow bar is not an expensive piece of equipment. Depending on the size plane you’ll be towing, typically a hand tow is all you’ll need. And the price range for hand tow bars is anywhere between $40 and $60. For larger, non-hand tow models you may be looking to spend upwards of several thousand dollars. At the highest end (usually for the biggest planes) you will need a tow bar system that is compatible with a tow tractor. As one gets into the largest of aircrafts, it becomes economical to use tugs instead of tow bars.
Tugs often have more flexibility in the types of aircraft they can move around; so, if versatility is your main goal, a tug might be a better option than a tow bar.