Out with the old mules, in with the new

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News Article / February 14, 2017

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By Master Warrant Officer Paul Flowers

The Royal Canadian Air Force has taken delivery of 60 replacement vehicles for an aging fleet of D6 tow tractors – more commonly known on flight lines as “mules”.

The vehicles were delivered in late January 2017 to several Royal Canadian Air Force wings, including 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec; 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta; 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario; 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia; 17 Wing Winnipeg, Manitoba; and 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia.

The mules are used to tow and manoeuvre aircraft on the tarmac for flight operations and scheduled maintenance, as well as to tow aircraft maintenance support equipment (AMSE) to carry out aircraft servicing. These particular mules – the smallest in the RCAF inventory – are used in support of flight line operations to tow CT-114 Tutors, CH-146 Griffon and CC-148 Twin Otter aircraft. Larger mules are used to tow larger and heavier aircraft.

Mules are essential to day-to-day activities on the flight line. The new vehicles will be much more dependable and a welcomed resource for the technicians who service aircraft

The current D6 mules, manufactured by Clark, were procured in 1987 and had reached the end of their service life. The existing fleet had reliability, availability and maintainability issues that had resulted in increased operational and maintenance costs and parts were difficult to obtain.  

The new tractors, manufactured by TLD America, are similar to the old D6 mules but have many improvements. For example, the new mules have increased towing capacity, LED lighting, a superior heating system, an improved cold weather starting aid and the ability to release the front and back pintle hitch from inside the cab.

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