Cayenne tows Airbus: How hard can it be?

A Porsche Cayenne S has just entered the Guinness Book of Records for completing the heaviest aircraft pull recorded by a production car. The Cayenne S crossed The English Channel to France and on to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, where it pulled an Airbus 380 weighing 285 metric tonnes (630,000 pounds).

I’m not sure what the significance of Air France is in this – maybe the idea came from Porsche Cars GB technician and slammed 964 owner, Rich Payne, who drove the Cayenne, and a French friend of his working on Air France Airbus 380s. Anyway, the Cayenne is said to have been completely standard for the pull, apparently eschewing the usual addition of a tonne of steel ballast as per previous Volkswagen Touareg/Boeing 747 pulls to ensure good traction.

How hard can it be to get 295 tonnes of Airbus moving? I am no physics expert (as may be proved by the following paragraph), but the important factor is probably the friction co-efficient of the A380’s tyres. A NASA study in 2003 calculated a friction co-efficient for modern aircraft tyres of 0.015. Pumping the tyres up to a very high pressure would minimise this figure – perhaps taking it down to 0.01. Times 285 tonnes by 0.01 and you get 2.58 tonnes of weight pull to get this thing moving.

This is a little more than my ageing 955 Cayenne S towing the Tuthill Porsche 997 R-GT rally car on a trailer, which it has managed quite happily done for thousands of miles, so should be pretty straightforward for a modern Cayenne. The towcar challenge comes in controlling and stopping the weight hanging on behind, which of course the Cayenne does not have to do, especially with an airport apron out front for the A380 to roll off into.

Even taking the higher NASA figure of 0.15 gives us a a pulling weight of 4.2 tonnes, which a Cayenne should be able to handle no problem. Some of the big American domestic pickups can get 7 tonnes of trailer weight moving – been there, done that – so the issue would be finding an aircraft weighing 460 tonnes to smash this new record out of the water. Towing the Space Shuttle would be pretty cool, but that was only 74 tonnes: you’d need to link a few together to challenge one of the bigger US pickups, and get NASA to agree to it.

Still it’s well done and the photos are cool. A day messing around in France towing aircraft behind a Cayenne is a nice day at work. I’d like to see what a Macan could pull, weight wise.

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