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Thread: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

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    Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    With Cg near the gear to begin with, is there any reason an aicraft can't be designed to be towed by the tail? In CT they have a "homebuilt" class for trailers with very few, essential requirements. Also, if the gear span is roughly the same as a boat trailer (which in some cases is true), then stability ought not to be a problem either. Naturally, the fuselage (and ...?) would need to be designed to endure tension and other loads not typically incurred by aircraft.

    Seems trivial from an aircraft design perspective, but not so much from an ownership one, maybe.

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    Registered User bwainfan's Avatar
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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    Dyke Delta

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    Super Moderator orion's Avatar
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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    Assuming you figured out what to do with the wings, towing an airplane behind your car should not be too much a problem, or at least not from the airplane's standpoint anyway. You'd however need to keep a few things in the back of your mind like exercising a bit of caution over a rough road or speed bumps - the airplane's suspension is not designed for that type of shock absorption so it may start bouncing on you. But overall, given proper attachment, I wouldn't foresee too many airplane related issues. Obviously a taildragger might be easier to setup for this than a tricycle configuration but overall it seems doable.

    But if you're going to do this on a regular basis, especially in a more densely populated area, then you might start running into regulatory issues. The obvious ones might have to deal with things like turn signals and brake lights - I suppose you could attach something to the airplane's nose where it would be visible to the drivers behind you. But other things that might affect your ability to do this on a regular basis might have to do with the highway department's interpretation of the rules. Off the top of my head I don't now what these might entail but it might be worth checking into before you commit to heading down the road.
    "To live is to learn; to learn is to live" (author unknown)

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    Registered User radfordc's Avatar
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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    I moved my Sonex from the airport to my house...about five miles. I removed the wings and set the tailwheel on my pickup truck tailgate. Tied it with several ropes and it traveled nicely.

    Charlie

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    Registered User RonL's Avatar
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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    Quote Originally Posted by radfordc View Post
    I moved my Sonex from the airport to my house...about five miles. I removed the wings and set the tailwheel on my pickup truck tailgate. Tied it with several ropes and it traveled nicely.

    Charlie
    I like that.

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    Registered User Joe Fisher's Avatar
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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    Before I had my own strip I would tow Cubs ,T crafts ect. to and from the airport with little problem. One time when I finished a Cub my truck wasn't running. So I put one of those car top racks on top of my old Pontiac and towed the Cub with the tail wheel on top of the car. Once I was bringing a J-4 home about 5 miles and one brake was dragging the tire cot fire.
    Joe

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    Registered User wally's Avatar
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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    I towed my Pitts S-1 from my house to the airport. It was the fuselage and attached engine. I tied the tailwheel on the tailgate and away I went. The wings came on a second trip on a rack - also in my pickup. I was a bit concerned because of the narrow gear and high CG so I went around corners kinda slow.
    Wally

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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    The original Fly Baby actually had a trailer licence for towing on the highway.

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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    The Sonerais were designed to be towed that way as well.
    Jon McDonald
    Building Sonex #1287

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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    Well that settles that. Thanks.

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    Moderator Dana's Avatar
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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    As others have said, it's not only possible but has been done, many times. However, there are some issues to consider. The aircraft would have to be structurally designed for it, as towing puts stresses on an aircraft that it wouldn't see in normal flight. Rough roads can give it quite a beating. This may or may not be much of an issue, depending on whether you're just dragging it a couple of miles to get it to the airport once or twice, or you plan to store the aircraft at home and tow it on a regular basis. An airplane is much lighter than a normal trailer for the amount of area it has, so it would get blown around a lot... consider what would happen when you get passed by an 18 wheeler at 65 mph on a windy day. You would also have to consider whether the wheels, bearings, and brakes can take it. May aircraft brakes drag a bit; this isn't such a big deal for the short distance of taxiing and takeoff but could cause problems on a long tow.

    If you're going to do a lot of towing, a dedicated trailer designed or customized to support the airplane is the best bet. Not only does it save wear and tear on the plane, but if it's an enclosed trailer, you may not need a hangar. I keep my plane in its trailer at the airport during the flying season, and tow it back home for the winter. As you say, registering a homemade trailer in CT is not too tough (I've done two) but it does need to have lights, safety chains, etc.

    -Dana

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    Registered User flyranch's Avatar
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    Re: Is it possible to design a plane to be towable (w/o trailer)?

    Volksplane

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