News & Events

LEKTRO Ushers in 70th Anniversary at NBAA with Heritage and Innovation


Las Vegas, Nevada, Nov. 19, 2015LEKTRO, Inc. celebrated their 70th year in business at NBAA with a combination of history and future technology. LEKTRO featured their Airporter, the world’s first towbarless aircraft tug at the Las Vegas Convention Center and their new diesel/electric hybrid, the AP8850SDA-H at the NBAA static display.AP8850SDA-H hybrid w Falcon 7X (14)

“LEKTRO introduced the world to the safety and efficiency of towbarless towing in 1967 and we haven’t stopped innovating since” said Henry Balensifer, LEKTRO’s communication manager.

LEKTRO’s current lineup boasts all towbarless tugs capable of moving everything from an entry level piston aircraft to single-aisle airliners. Previously the company produced solely all-electric aircraft tugs, but announced at NBAA they expanded their production to now include a hybrid tug that can run off Jet A or diesel.

The first towbarless aircraft tug was conceived by LEKTRO founder, Wilt Paulson and his friend Sy King, who founded Flightcraft in Portland, now an Atlantic Aviation company. Sy thought that if there was a way to eliminate the towbar and simply lift the nose landing gear, aircraft would be spared damage that was otherwise common. They developed the “Airporter” together by turning the LEKTRO mink feeder chassis around so that the steer tires were at the rear of the vehicle, under the operator, and the drive tires at the front, where a hydraulic lift cradle would be attached. The cradle would then raise the nose gear of the aircraft off the ground, transferring the aircraft nose weight onto the tug. This new vehicle was named the “Airporter” and was the world’s first towbarless aircraft tug.Airporter 1

In 1985, Wilt’s son, Eric, took over the company. Under his leadership, LEKTRO continued to improve the original “Airporter” design and unveiled several improved models and chassis series including the current product lineup.

LEKTRO’s hybrid model is the result of an accelerated development program to meet customer demands for a tug that can operate in areas with limited or unreliable power infrastructure, continue operations after a natural disaster, or simply want greater endurance.

“Our AP8850SDA-H allows the user to manually choose all electric operation like a standard LEKTRO, as well as operate on the diesel engine to preserve battery life and charge the battery bank, the diesel engine can also be set to automatically charge the battery once it reaches a certain level of depletion.”

The tug has completed desert operations tests and will begin cold weather operations testing after NBAA to ensure flawless operation in weather extremes.

“We have one of the most rigorous testing regimes of any tug manufacturer. When you buy a LEKTRO, it’s not just a machine engineered to work, it’s been tested and pushed to its limits to ensure reliable function and smooth operation” Balensifer stated.

“I’m not sure many manufacturers as old as we are can say their second tug ever made is still in operation. Ours is, at Skinner Aviation in Ashland, Oregon,” Balensifer commented.

The first Airporter in service was at Flightcraft until it was traded in for a newer unit so it could become part of LEKTRO’s museum and was on display at the Las Vegas Convention Center for NBAA 2015. There are now nearly 5,000 LEKTRO tugs in operation in nearly every country of the world.

LEKTRO attributes part of its success to its single-family ownership.

“Not having to answer to shareholders has kept us customer focused, which also means quality-not cost cutting,” Balensifer noted.



LEKTRO is an Oregon based company founded in 1945 that specializes in the design and manufacture of electric vehicles. LEKTRO founder Wilt Paulson invented the first towbarless tow vehicle in 1967, revolutionizing aircraft towing. Eric, his son, took over the company in 1985, overseeing the development of the larger, modern tugs LEKTRO builds now. LEKTRO has produced a wide variety of pioneering electric vehicles over its 70 year history, including the first electric mink feeder and the first electric golf cart, as well as forklifts and warehouse vehicles. A single family ownership has guaranteed uncompromising reliability and function in LEKTRO’s products as well as unsurpassed product support.


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Media Contact:

Henry Balensifer, Communications Manager


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