What do you do when a friend asks you to build a helicopter tug for his aircraft? Well, the answer seemed quite simple for Steve Hill: he started Tiger Tugs.
Hill had a company that specialized in airplane tugs, so when he received the request for the helicopter tug he felt it was a natural expansion. Hill asked his friend about existing tugs on the market and why he didn’t purchase one already available. His friend listed all the faults of existing tugs. Hill went on a road trip to visit helicopter companies and mechanics to find out what worked and what did not. He returned with a plethora of information. So, his tug design began with the recommendations of the rotorcraft pros he surveyed on the road. Once Hill and his team felt they had a product ready to debut in 2010, Hill started going to industry trade shows to promote his new Tiger Tug. At the first show, he walked away with two new orders.
Tiger Tugs started with a good initial design and then kept adding new innovations and redefining what is needed for the industry. This process led to today’s models:
Model 5: designed to lift helicopters with a towing weight up to 5,000 lbs.
Model 8.0: designed to lift helicopters with a towing weight up to 8,000 lbs.
Model 8.0B: designed specifically for the Bell 429, it can lift up to 8,000 lbs.
Model 12: designed for the Bell 412, it can lift up to 12,000 lbs.
Model MD: designed specifically for the MD 500 series helicopters. It lifts on the belly and avoids the problem of lifting from the skids.It’s capable of lifting up to 3,500 lbs.
Typhoon: Omni-directional capability (zero-radius turning)
Innovative Design & Partnership
Instead of reinventing the wheel, Tiger Tugs has built innovative partnerships in order to create solutions that complement its entire line of tugs. One such partnership is with Blue Moon Designs which manufactures the Heli-Saddle system. The Heli-Saddle system consists of steel U-shaped supports coated with polyurethane. This support is where the Tiger Tugs lifting system actually makes contact with the helicopter cross tubes. The purpose of the solution is to provide a non-marring contact surface that will not scratch or gouge cross tubes. The urethane coating exhibits the following characteristics:
Impervious to 5606 hydraulic fluid, jet fuel, av-gas, engine oils
Extremely resistant to ultraviolet degradation
Chemically Bonded to the steel frame
All Tiger Tugs’ models work seamlessly with the Heli-Saddle in order to make better contact with the cross tube; this eliminates the tendency of the helicopter to jump out of the saddle as it is being moved.
Since Tiger Tugs lifts feature scissor-lift solutions, the saddles rise straight up to make contact with the helicopter. This is very important as it assures that when a Tiger Tugs lift is driven into position under a helicopter, and the saddles are lined up, perfect alignment is maintained during the entire rise of the lift as it makes contact with the helicopter.
The fit is designed to be versatile and handle different helicopters. Positioning of saddles is very flexible. To fit a helicopter safely, you can position saddles anywhere lengthwise along the tug. This gives the ability to set the saddle inboard or outboard of the tug frame to best position it along the cross tube of the aircraft. The saddles also have the capability of raising and lowering, allowing for the height that is comfortable for each aircraft’s operational difference.
“Smoothness is very important when it comes to safely handling a multi-million dollar helicopter”, says Steve Hill. Tiger Tugs utilizes all-electric drive motors for a reason. These motors transition very smoothly. They accelerate, decelerate, and turn with the utmost smoothness and positive control. Tiger Tugs can move across the ramp at over 3.5 mph or can creep into position a millimeter at a time. The wheels are 100 percent natural rubber to provide the best traction possible, which enables the tugs to move across rough terrain and slopes without slipping.
Because Tiger Tugs is a client-driven business, they focus on solutions to meet customers’ specific needs. For example, a charger and extension cord on a retractable cord reel is included on every tug.
Typhoon is Here
“The Typhoon tug is the first rotorcraft tug of its kind,” says Hill. It is revolutionizing the way helicopters are handled on the ground and on open waters. This tug is unique because of its true omni-directional capability. The Typhoon is able to move in any compass direction: It can drive sideways, at any angle, and pivot 360° about its center.
Haven’t you wished you could just move your helicopter just an inch fore or aft, left or right? The Typhoon was designed after learning a client needed to minutely move his helicopter around with precision on his yacht. The client further wanted the ability to move his helicopter sideways into an onboard hangar.
Typhoon is designed with full wireless remote capability. This enables a single person with full control and visibility to safely move a helicopter. The wireless system is very simple for the operator and works seamlessly with motor controllers and gearboxes in the tug.
The wireless system is set up for U.S. and international use with a frequency that is accepted around the world. The system is set so that if the signal is not getting to the sensors, it will shut itself down until all issues are resolved. There is also a long cable system if you are in a noisy frequency or electronic environment. Making sure you are able to use the tug in all situations and in all areas, is the goal of Tiger Tugs.
Tiger Tugs collaborated with wireless system vendors to ensure that every sensor receives proper information for each individual wheel. Making sure that each wheel moves correctly and functions together as a unit enables an omni-directional system. The Typhoon’s tires are made of polyurethane material for use on relatively flat surfaces.
Typhoons are made for a lifetime and their maintenance is very simple. Keep it charged and it will keep going. Typhoon has a fully removable “brain” so if there is an issue, you can swap out its brain box with one that is on the shelf and be back up and running in a matter of minutes. This is extremely important for HAA operators who need to get an aircraft out and ready for departure,. There is no time to wait on a mechanic to get a non-operable tug up and going again.
Typhoon is designed to be the future of helicopter tugs on solid ground or at sea.
Tiger Tugs has its roots as a fabrication shop. They bring that expertise to the table by manufacturing the lifts using only heavy gauge steel and top grade stainless steel. All electronics are from vendors who specialize in remote wireless technology and then Tiger Tugs brings it all together into a comprehensive, innovative solution. Tiger Tugs works with each individual client to build a tug that is specific for their needs and for their model of helicopter. They do not believe in having “stock;” they believe in building custom solutions for each and every customer.
Because form always follows function, clients do not have to sacrifice aesthetics when it comes to their tugs. Representative of the extra effort Tiger Tugs gives their clients, the company also offers custom paint schemes and graphics so that the tug may match the helicopter.
Describing his company, Hill sums it up when he says, “When someone has a need to ground-handle a helicopter, we understand both the investment they have in the aircraft and the obligation to do it safely. We want to be their engineering source, because Tiger Tugs is not just another helicopter tug company, we are a company who designs solutions.”