Seaplane Tugs Are Half Truck, Half Trailer

These trucks seem weird at first but actually make a lot of sense.

Seeing this seaplane tug truck broke my brain for a few seconds. Prior to seeing this TikTok video, I never gave any thought to how seaplanes get in and out of the water. Now, though, it’s all I want to think about because I had no idea that the most common seaplane tug is actually half of a pickup truck.

In the video, you see a regular cab Ford F-250, sans bed, with a very long trailer attached to the front, and a seaplane sitting on the trailer. The truck backs the trailer and plane up a ramp, out of the water, in one of the strangers automotive sights I’ve seen in long time. However, after learning about how these seaplane tugs work, and why they are the way they are, it makes a lot of sense.

The how is actually pretty simple. The back of the truck is removed and the front is mounted to a massive trailer. That trailer not only holds the plane but it also keeps the truck from tipping over. So the front wheels both turn and push/pull the trailer. In this specific application, I’m not entirely sure how its drivetrain works, as Ford F-250s are rear-wheel drive-based, but I assume that everything behind the transmission is removed and the truck is locked in four-wheel drive, so it powers the front wheels.

@bo.and.lo All in, all the time. #halftruck #seaplane #nickolascage #fordF50 ♬ original sound – 60 Minutes

As for the why, it seems that these seaplane tugs are preferred for several reasons. The first is that they keep the very large, very expensive plane in front of the driver, making it easier to place and park. Another reason is that this setup keeps the driven wheels out of the water when towing planes up and down ramps. Weight could also be a factor, as planes are quite heavy and removing the unneeded half of a truck could reduce enough weight to make towing easier.

This half truck, half trailer setup might look odd but it works and seems to be common among seaplane transportation. There’s even one made from an Oldsmobile Toronado, which was a rare V8-powered, front-wheel drive car. Seeing these seaplane tugs is a reminder that there are unique, specialized vehicles for almost everything.

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