Why are we going overkill on tugs these days? - RC Groups
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Feb 03, 2011, 12:48 PM
GNX430's Avatar

Why are we going overkill on tugs these days?

My ? are simple. It seems most people have to have a DA100 min just have a tug? To be honest i prefer to be towed more scale like then the 70-100 mph tows that seem to be norm these days. Yes we have a line forming behind the tug but really unless we lose a tug or two at a event do we really need to go vertical or over a 45 degree climb angle or reach 1500' in 90 sec? The events I go to YES ! There are a lot of 5 and 6+ meter ships and you need a good tug. But what about all the 4 meter guys do they REALLY HONESTLY need to be towed by a DA100+ to have fun? And how many of these guys will really WEAR OUT there tug before a mishap on landing or a radio issue? I understand the tow release needing a real good secure mounting tied into the frame work and wires at the stabs but do we really need a 1/3 scale size tug? I hate to see some guys scared away just because they can't afford a simple tug.
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Feb 03, 2011, 01:09 PM
Registered User
yyz's Avatar

I believe that the tow pilots like to have big, powerful towplanes just as much as the glider pilots like to have huge 40% sailplanes. It's just cool and they look and fly more realistically.

Having said that, I have on occasion asked several tow pilots if they wouldn't mind slowing down and have never had one say, "No!". In full scale soaring, there are visual signals for this (rocking wings, wagging rudder, etc) so it's not unprecedented or unreasonable for the sailplane pilot to ask the tow pilot to adjust his speed or heading. If the glider guys aren't there and there is nothing to tow, that isn't much fun for the tow pilots.

I think you just need to ask nicely,

Feb 03, 2011, 01:22 PM
LSF303-AMA Fellow
tkallev's Avatar
The less time you have two kilo-buck toys tied together with a piece of string, the better.

The fewer turns made under tow, the fewer chances of the sailplane pilot turning inside the towplane, creating slack and then bucking the towplane when the slack comes out.

A scale tow can always be had if you ask the tow pilot ahead of time, but the quicker you can get off the ground and established in the climb, for my money, the better.

Of course, turnaround time at the larger events is also part of the equation, as well as having a tug that can tow anything from a KA-6 foamie to a 1/2 scale Schweizer. No one wants to get to the front of the line and then be told, "Hold on, we need the BIG tug for you!"

Feb 03, 2011, 01:35 PM
xroadie's Avatar
Back in the old days....before the turn of the century.....there were more underpowered tugs than overpowered. After some of the wild rides I had with weak tugs, I'll take an overpowered tug anytime
Feb 03, 2011, 03:23 PM
GNX430's Avatar
Mike, I agree big looks better. I just like to see more people have a chance at being a tug pilot then the first thing someone says is you need DA1000 engine or DON'T BOTHER>

TK, I have also been the victim of my tug pilot turning in on me. Wouldn't matter how much HP your tug had, It would not get you out of that situation.

Xroadie, I have seen marginal powered tugs get in trouble a few times and in about 1/2 of those cases the extra HP got them out of BAD trouble. The other there was NO WAY.

Not saying a overpowered tug is a bad thing AT ALL> Just saying you really don't HAVE TO have one to tow..

Ken, Will you still tow me in Palm Springs after this post? HAHAHA
Feb 03, 2011, 04:06 PM
Registered User
k2k's Avatar
Jerry, Jerry, Jerry ....

I will tow you but bring a disposable airplane.

I would like to point out that most of us use a 10 pitch prop. At 6200 rpm the theoretical prop speed is less than 60 mph. I think that sometimes the downwind leg looks a lot faster than it really is.

The last time Michael Gore was at Visalia he did some really nice tows for the smaller planes with is 1/4 scale Cub which I believe has a G38. I have to agree that it is nice to size the tow plane to the glider, but for an all around plane with the mix of gliders we have around here, it is hard to beat a 100cc powered tow plane. And hey, I took Frank's little ASK-13 up to 850 meters out at Coachella in January - you wouldn't even be able to see a 1/4 size tug at that altitude!
Feb 03, 2011, 04:10 PM
Nothing like a good WOODIE!
cooper998's Avatar
I personally would rather see smaller tugs and more sailplanes in the 3~4 meter range. While it is impressive to see the larger sailplanes it can be intimidating for newcomers to the hobby. Granted some of the smaller ships can be very expensive but there are plenty to be had at lower more affordable pricing.
Do we really need the big tugs? of course we do as long as people are willing to spend the money on the 10+ meter sailplanes then there should be available tugs capable of towing them safely but in the same respect if there are smaller ships then smaller tugs should be made available as well.

Feb 03, 2011, 04:44 PM
Chicago Mayor: A Terrorist
pilotfrank's Avatar
Originally Posted by k2k
And hey, I took Frank's little ASK-13 up to 850 meters out at Coachella in January - you wouldn't even be able to see a 1/4 size tug at that altitude!
Not to mention the little ASK-13 couldn't be seen at that altitude
Just kidding. Love the red wings and Coachella visibility is incredible, at least vertically.

And if that wasn't enough, the littler 1/6 2.5 meter ASW-27 went up to 500 meters behind Don's 3w110 powered 3.2m Pilatus Porter. Not an easy or pretty tow, but it worked.
Feb 03, 2011, 05:01 PM
Team JR Air
SPasierb's Avatar
You're asking the question of a pretty hard core, wingspan-envy issues laden, group here.

As Tony says and I agree, meaningful growth in our corner of the soaring hobby will come from 3-4 meter sailplanes and modest tugs. As important as it is to have the "big" tug for the heavies; that same tug is typically intimidating for the guys who are early on in their scale experience as well as those flying shorter spans. I witnessed this at our event this past September. When the main tug would be cycled out for fuel or recharge the mean looking Pegasus with a 3W in the front made some guys get out of line to "wait for the other one."

Very shortly in Fly RC we'll have a review of the Hangar 9 1:4 scale J3 Cub ARF converted to a tow plane on a Power 160 motor running 10S. It's an ideal platform for towing 3-4 meter sailplanes and was chosen specifically for the review because it's approachable to a wide swath of people in the RC hobby, can have appeal for those who may be interested in aerotow and is affordable. We want to communicate: you can do this, it's fun and you still have a plane that is perfectly suited for regular flying.

For me, I specifically wanted to end up owning small, medium and large tugs because I fly hard-core with Len most frequently and also tow absolute beginners at the local power club on Sunday mornings. The modest Cub conversion, an AMR 50 Trainer on a huge outrunner (master build by Cooper998!) that flies at every speed, and the balls to the wall Pegasus with a 3W 120 fill these varied needs perfectly.

Feb 03, 2011, 06:12 PM
Registered User
yyz's Avatar
Originally Posted by GNX430
Mike, I agree big looks better. I just like to see more people have a chance at being a tug pilot then the first thing someone says is you need DA1000 engine or DON'T BOTHER>

Absolutely! Bring something 1:4 scale and you can tow my new Nimbus 4.

Like you, I don't care for the 45 degree climbs on tow. It doesn't look or feel anything like scale and I think it's actually harder for the glider pilot once you get away from the ground.

Coincidentally when I was flying your Discus, the tow pilot was hauling ass on one flight and the (your) glider started to Dutch roll. Hopefully you didn't see that
Feb 03, 2011, 06:19 PM
Registered User
rcmorrow's Avatar
I would agree with Steve in all respects.

I am fortunate to fly with Steve and Len at a variety of aerotow events that are on the East Coast and also had the privilege of going to the JR Aerotow this past June.

What I have seen at these events is a wide range of sailplanes from 2 meters up to 10 meters +. In all of these events I have found the people flying the tugs to be very open to the sailplane pilots requests on the towing as well as being very knowlegable and helpful.

Speaking for myself as a "newer scale sailplane pilot" I admit to being somewhat intimidated with my first events and tows. My first event being the New England Aerotow a year ago last September with Len and Steve.

Len and Steve along with all others that are this event and all the events I have been to have gone out of their way to be helpful and make the experience really fantastic in all respects. I was able to get my nerves calmed down quickly with their encouragement and everyone just was great about making the flying really enjoyable. Had my first flights with a larger scale sailplane at that event........my DG-600 with it at 4.8m. This sailplane gets off the ground pretty easily (a little low to the gorund, but not too bad) and the tugs and tug pilots that I flew with were great about making me feel very comfortable getting up in the air and helping with the tow and release timing.

I was a bit concerned about the more powerful tugs to be honest, but as I watched and everyone helped I became more aware of the process and the power in the tug being a definate plus..........as Steve and I have discussed: you hope you never need to use a system to its limits, but having good equipment (powerful enough engine/motor and radio systems/servos/batteries) can be the thing that saves the day when the unexpected happens.

Before this event Steve and I had been talking (along with others in my local club) and I put together a 1/4 scale Super Cub. I made it electric and powered it with an Axi 5330/18 on 10s. It is a great airplane for towing up sailplanes in the 2m to 4.5m spans.

Steve and I have both had the chance to fly it with our planes and it is a wonderful and enjoyable experience. It does have its limitations though. Even as I write here I have a second fuselage that I am preparing for the Super Cub that will have a more powerful motor system.....the intent is not to increase speed or skyrocket a sailplane upward, but to have the power in case of the unexpected need.

At other events since my first experience I have been a part of some flights where the tug saved the day by having the extra power to get out of situations......and I must also admit I was part of a flight where the tug wasn't able to get out and was unfortunately lost. I have also seen many flights that have been very successful due to the ability of both the tug and the tug pilot.

I still consider myself relatively new to scale sailplanes. I fly two sailplanes now and enjoy them both. I have learned a great deal about both flying the sailplanes as well as being a tug pilot.

I was at the New England Aerotow again this past fall and had a blast. The past year and a half have made flying more and more enjoyable.

Now I am able to help with towing as well as being the sailplane pilot. Having a range of tugs with various power abilities really is helpful.



I should apologize for not including some very important information that I did not share while writing this originally.

I had the chance to fly at SKSS in Delaware, also at the Penn. aerotow event, and as I mentioned earlier at JR in Illinois. Each of these events were amazing in how all the pilots attending were received and taken care of by the sponsor clubs and especially the individuals of these clubs that made us very welcome in more ways than I can begin to share. Unfortunately I don't remember the names of the many tow pilots at JR in Illinois........they are very skilled and provided help in more ways than I can begin to share.........SKSS........well, I don't know what words would tell how Charlie and all of his group made the event just amazing, and Penn. was very much the same.

Alex, Charlie, Len, Steve, the crew of JR/Horizon Hobby, and the many others that helped me and that I have heard of here but haven't had the chance to personally meet yet.............they all make it happen for us.

I am writing and rambling too much here, but I think the most important thing is what many have said and shared: If you take time to talk and share with eachother, communicate with the people running the tow planes and be open about sharing what you feel works for you then the tow pilots will do everything possible to help and make every flight you have a great one.
Last edited by rcmorrow; Feb 03, 2011 at 10:17 PM.
Feb 03, 2011, 07:00 PM
SZD16's Avatar
Originally Posted by xroadie
Back in the old days....before the turn of the century.....there were more underpowered tugs than overpowered. After some of the wild rides I had with weak tugs, I'll take an overpowered tug anytime
What he said......
Feb 03, 2011, 08:13 PM
Will fly for food
davidjensen's Avatar
I will be living the medium tug life style this season. After many tows behind Peg's and 40% cubs I will see how difficult it will be tugging a 16 lb sailplane with my 22 lb 1/4 scale cub.
Feb 03, 2011, 08:46 PM
GNX430's Avatar

prop speed

Ken, WOW you brought up a GREAT point ! I did not even think about that issue with you tug pilots. We can't have you falling out of the air ! This really was NEVER EVER about the tug pilots. But more about equipment trend that is possibly keeping other people out of our great sport. If we can not recruit new scale aerotow people pretty soon we will vanish too. Ken, you are a GOOD tow pilot ! I watched you land about 10 times in a row at Visaila and each time you set it down within a 5 foot spot !
Feb 03, 2011, 09:15 PM
Registered User
As one of the coordinator's of the SKSS I think it's good to have multiple tugs with different power capabilities

Most aerotows have anywhere from 2m all the way up to 10m

It takes a good flight line boss with multiple tow planes all ready to go at anytime to coordinate which plane tows which sailplane

Some people do get intimidated by a big tow plane so its always good to have a range of tow planes at the event

Or use that left thumb and take it easy on the smaller sailplanes

I have seen most tow pilots throttle back when towing a smaller sailplane

Its all about communication!

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