The Definitive Guide to Airport Vehicles (I’d Like to Drive)

A nother TugIt’s no secret that I’m a big fan of airport vehicles.  No, I don’t love them as much as I love airplanes, but let’s face it – without airport vehicles, most airplanes wouldn’t be going anywhere. Ever try to push a 737 away from the gate with your bare hands?  Yeah, not happening.  So here is my totally biased and completely non-comprehensive look at the world of airport vehicles.

With each vehicle I’ve included a “Rave Score”  which indicates my level of enthusiasm (from 1-5 where 1 = it’s OK and 5 = AWESOMESAUCE) and also a “Fear Factor” which indicates how afraid you should be if I ever get my hands on one ( from 1-5 where 1 =  no worries and 5 = RUN FOR YOUR LIFE).


BAGGAGE TUG

A TugProbably one of the most numerous vehicles at the airport, baggage tugs are the trusty little workhorses that tow the luggage carts around.

Rave Score: 2 – Sorry, they just aren’t that glamorous.

Fear Factor: 3.5 –  Although not especially exciting as far as vehicles go, I’m fairly certain I could cause a decent amount of mayhem in one.

AIRPLANE TUG

IMG_4527Haul luggage? No way! That’s for sissies.  This bad boy moves the IMPORTANT equipment, namely, airplanes.

Rave Score: 3.5 – Important? Yes, but not especially exciting.

Fear Factor: 1 – Given that there’s pretty much no chance of me ever figuring out which hitch to use (I’m told every airplane uses a different type) let alone being able to actually attach it to the tug AND hook it up to the plane, there is nothing to fear here.  That said, if someone else were to take care of the technical details and put me into the driver seat once everything is ready to go… well THAT would be a different story. Then we’d be looking at a Fear Factor very close to 5.  Can you imagine the look of horror on the faces of the pilots as it begins to dawn on them who the tug driver is? (Captain: Hey, that tug driver looks familiar…  First Officer: Oh NO! It’s that woman with the blog!)

SNOW PLOW

IMG_2684Definitely one of the heavy hitters of the airport, the snow plow is an impressive vehicle.  While it looks quite large when seen from a distance, I assure you it is positively gargantuan when you view it up close. Probably the only thing more impressive than the snow plow is a whole convoy of them coming at you at once!

Rave Score: 4 – It’s big, it’s loud, it prowls the runways – what more needs to be said?

Fear Factor: 4 – You really don’t want me driving a snow plow – it would just be all kinds of ugly.

BROOM TRUCK

A BroomIt’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. Unlike the snow plow which gets the summer off, this vehicle is hard at work year-round.  In the winter it goes in behind the plow and clears off the thin layer of snow that the blade leaves behind.  In the summer it removes the rubber build-up and other debris from the runways.

Rave Score: 4.5 – Like the snow plow, this vehicle is near the top of the airport vehicle food chain.  Unfortunately, I can’t give it a 5 because it’s always obscured under a cloud of dirt and/or snow which makes it a vehicle only Pig Pen could truly love.

Fear Factor: 4.5 – This gets a slightly higher fear factor than the plow, if only because it offers me the opportunity to wreak havoc all year long.

EMERGENCY VEHICLES

ARFF 1For the sake of brevity, I’m going to lump the ARFF (Airplane Rescue and Fire Fighting) and police vehicles together into one group. This would include fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, pick-up trucks and other support vehicles.  Although they are quite different in style, all of them have sirens, flashing lights and clearance to go racing off to where ever they might be needed.

Rave Score: 3.5 – Sure, the fire truck and police car are pretty impressive, but when you counter them against the lowly pick-up truck I think the group averages out around a 3. I’m giving them an extra half point because did I mention they have sirens?

Fear Factor: 4.5 – I don’t think I need to detail all the ways I could get into trouble with these vehicles. Besides, the emergency personnel know where my office is.

POOL VEHICLES

The Pool Cars are run-of-the-mill Chevy sport utility vehicles used by airport authority employees to travel to various buildings on the airfield as well as to the other airports in our jurisdiction. The only reason I’m including them on this list is because I actually HAVE driven them.

Rave Score: 1 – *yawn*

Fear Factor: 1 – Nothing to see here, move along.

DE-ICING RIG

IMG_2788The de-icing rigs are large trucks which drive around the de-icing pads in order to spray de-icing chemicals on the airplanes to… you guessed it de-ice them!

Rave Score: 5 – While this sounds like it might be tedious, it actually looks cool as hell!

Fear Factor: 5 – Whether you put me in the driver’s seat or in the de-icing bucket, there is no way I’m not going to cause all kinds of chaos.  If you put me in the de-icing bucket and my friend Louise behind the wheel then trust me, ice on the airplanes will be the very least of anyone’s worries.

 MOTORIZED STAIRS

IMG_2789They come in a variety of styles, all of which are completely awesome. One thing is for sure – there is no mistaking the motorized stairs. They’re stairs. They can be driven around.  Read those last two sentences again.

Rave Score: 6 – Did you read those two sentences above again like I asked you to? In case you didn’t: THEY’RE STAIRS AND YOU CAN DRIVE THEM AROUND!!!!

IMG_2519Fear Factor: 6 – You may recall an earlier post titled “Airport Jobs I Wish I Had” in which I first professed my love for the mobile stairs and wondered whether my airport actually had any (up until then I hadn’t seen any around). Shortly after that post was published someone parked a set of motorized stairs outside my department window. Whoever decided to taunt me in this way also parked a police car next to them.  This was a very wise precaution for if I ever get my hands on the motorized stairs, someone will have to leap aboard and pry me from the driver’s seat because that’s the only way you’ll ever get me out.


Now some of you are thinking, “Hey – what about the fuel truck, shuttle, lawn mower, catering truck, etc.?” I TOLD you in the first paragraph that this is a completely non-comprehensive list.  However, there is one last airport vehicle I feel compelled to mention. I cannot rate it because it is a fairly new creation and the airport doesn’t have any yet. But we’ve got two on order and I cannot wait until they arrive!  Ladies and gentleman, behold – The Monster Hybrid Snow Plow and Broom!  Three words: Oh. Hell. Yes.Monster

10 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Airport Vehicles (I’d Like to Drive)

  1. Yeah, that hybrid thing is pretty awesome. I’d love to drive it down a runway. But I’d probably end up getting run over by an airplane or something silly like that. LOL!

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  2. Oh yes the hybrid is the one I’d consider rearranging my schedule to spend time driving around for a day, really. I’m all about the fun factor when it comes to vehicles and all one has to do is look at all the stuff attached to that thing to know it would be a blast to drive! Thanks for leaving me with a smile Jenn ; )

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  3. I’d love to see you operating the de-icing truck; not only is it a cool vehicle (and the savior of many a pilot during winter), but it sprays noxious chemicals. In fact, I challenge you to a joust! You take the deice truck and I’ll take the fire truck. Type 2 deice fluid vs foam retardant. It’d be like “Medieval Times — Airport Edition” !

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  4. I can help you out with the tug. It is actually much easier than you would think to hook stuff up. It helps that they generally keep the right bar near the right planes.

    I think the fire truck should have had their own spot because they would win it all for me (though that hybrid truck does look pretty sick). Have you seen all of the different things those fire trucks can do? Pure awesomeness.

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    • Hi David! Thanks for reading! And thanks for your offer of assistance with the tug! Pilots in the area, however, are probably less than thrilled. LOL! As for the fire truck, oh yes, they are awesome! Just not as awesome as motorized stairs. ;o) If you haven’t seen it yet, search Youtube for BBC Top Gear Airport Vehicle Race. You’ll love it!

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  5. Pingback: Ten Aviation Blogs Worth Reading | The House of Rapp

  6. Thanks for the awesome post! It was very informative and entertaining. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the little truck with a conveyor belt on the back meant for loading and unloading baggage; I don’t think you’d be able to wreak much havoc with it but they have the next best thing to stairs mounted on the back and can also be driven around 🙂

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    • Thanks for reading Houston! Oh I’m a huge fan of the mobile conveyor and I’m sure I could cause a fair amount of havoc with one – especially if I’m allowed to launch projectiles off the conveyor belt! ;o)

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