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Innoquest’s GoTow Drill-Powered Tow Bar for Aircrafts

Since its launch in 2019, the GoTow Drill-Powered Tow Bar has gained much traction (see what we did there) and become increasingly popular amongst pilots looking for an easy-to-use and lightweight aircraft tow bar. Once exclusively available for purchase by Sporty’s, it is now also available from Aircraft Spruce and AERO Phoenix.

Originally published by AviationConsumer.com By Phil Lightstone – Published:October 25, 2023

Electric Tow Bars: Hand-Tool Powered

Tow bars powered by a cordless drill can get the job done, but try them on your particular aircraft before committing to one.

Based on a field without line services (and refusing to move my Rockwell unassisted after slipping and falling while hand-towing it), I’ve been learning about the four broad-brush categories of hangar tugs. This includes more traditional aircraft-specific engine-powered tugs, electric-powered under-nosewheel/tailwheel tugs and handheld tow bars that use the kinetic energy of a spinning cordless drill.

Herewith are some top picks for drill-powered tow bars, with some tips for choosing one.

PRODUCT SELECTION

Like manual tow bars, powered ones aren’t perfect, and when shopping for an electric tow bar, consider traction when on snow and ice, the adapter that might be required for your aircraft model, battery endurance and replacement intervals, the tow bar’s speed, warranty, the potential shipping charges for in-warranty repairs and the return policy in case it doesn’t work for your application after trying it. That’s a lot to consider.

But these devices are lighter, more portable and less expensive than a powered tug. You’ll also want to consider the weight of the aircraft and any inclines that it needs to move on.

Minimax, Robotow, Redline and Innoquest have various models, based upon the maximum weight that they can accommodate. You might want to oversize slightly to ensure that you’re not overtaxing the drill.

BRING YOUR OWN DRILL

Simplifying the concept, these drill-powered tow bars are handheld tow bars that attach to the nosegear and a small drive drum that sits on top of the nosewheel tire. Power from a Milwaukee or DeWalt cordless drill (to name two) is transferred through a drive chain and down the pole to the drive drum, causing the tire to spin when the drill is activated.

Switching the drill to reverse simply causes the aircraft to roll to the rear. To change direction, just swing the tow bar either left or right. Since the drills are variable speed, it allows you to tow the aircraft at varying speeds. But there are some considerations, as I found on my airplane.

INNOQUEST INC

Woodstock, Illinois-based Innoquest began R&D efforts for an electric tow bar in 2016 (it first offered fuel testers) when its founder, Bill Hughes, needed a motorized tug for his Cirrus. After a review of the market he designed the GoTow and sent it to the market in 2019, where it currently retails for $2095. The approach is different than the competition in that the customer supplies the cordless drill—and stands on a 12- by 14-inch platform attached to the tow bar. This additional weight helps improve traction, while other designs require a downward force, potentially causing arm strain injuries. And to reduce the weight of the device itself, it’s made of aluminum. Moreover, Innoquest’s R&D efforts focused on developing a special type of gear train for the tow bar so that the drill’s brake is not activated when on a downslope. We think that’s smart.

Out of the box, the tow bar will fit most Cessna and Cirrus aircraft, and adapters are available for Piper (the Piper Tab Adapter is $95). And adapter kits for other aircraft, including Piper and Cessna retracs, Beech Bonanzas, Mooney M20s and Diamond DA20s and DA40s, are $125. The tow bar doesn’t ship with an electric drill, allowing the user to select the brand and model of cordless that they’re familiar with, potentially at better prices than Innoquest can offer. Plus, with no power tool included, Innoquest is not constrained by shipping lithium batteries.

The GoTow adjusts to fit most cordless drills (the required drill must be 18 volts or more) and it must have a half-inch chuck. The GoTow is limited to a maximum user weight of 270 pounds and maximum aircraft weight of 3500 pounds. The GoTow has a tow speed of 0.5 mph when powered by an 18-volt Milwaukee drill that’s spinning at 400 RPM. The tow bar weighs 28 pounds, not including the drill. “With cordless drill technology changing so rapidly and many pilots having aligned to a specific brand (with extra batteries), it made a lot of sense to design a solution which was drill agnostic,” Hughes told us. The GoTow can be purchased from Aircraft Spruce, Aero Phoenix and Sporty’s. Since Innoquest has no specific return policy, customers are left to work directly with the selling retailer. Visit www.innoquestinc.com.

TRY ‘EM IF YOU CAN
It’s hard to pick a favorite because there are so many variables that will make these electric tow bars work great or not we’ll at all. For one thing, the tow bar needs to have enough power to move the plane up inclines and over hangar door tracks and water rails. Some vendors have a 30-day money-back guarantee, assuming that the returned device is in pristine condition. Try it, first. Still, we know of owners who had to get creative by manufacturing small wooden or metal ramps to more easily guide the plane over the obstacles.

During our research, electric tow bar manufacturers noted that some owners get a running start to help get the plane over an obstacle. You might also angle the plane so that each main tire goes over the obstacle one at a time, if there’s room. This in itself shows that these drill-powered tow bars aren’t anywhere close to having the torque capability of a traditional aircraft tug. But we still think they can be a better solution than pushing and pulling the aircraft by hand. We’ll look at tugs in a follow-up article.

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