SOURCE: WheelTug plc

WheelTug plc

April 27, 2010 10:58 ET

ICE Corporation to Develop Controller for WheelTug® Aircraft Electric Drive System

GIBRALTAR--(Marketwire - April 27, 2010) -  ICE Corporation, a leading designer and supplier of electronic controls for aviation, will design, develop and build the controllers for the aircraft on-ground electric drive system being developed by WheelTug plc, the companies announced today.

WheelTug® is a unique concept in aircraft ground operations. This patented hybrid-electric drive system incorporates high performance electric motors installed in the nosewheels of the aircraft, providing full mobility on the ground without the use of the aircraft engines or tugs for pushback and taxi operations. WheelTug enables aircraft to be driven without using their engines from the terminal gate to the runway, and from runway exit to the gate, upon landing. The resulting improvements in efficiency, flexibility, fuel savings, reduced engine FOD damage and CO2 emissions yield projected savings of more than $500,000 per aircraft per year.

Under the agreement, ICE will design, certify, and build the controller that drives the electric motors and control the system for the first model being developed, which is for the Boeing 737NG aircraft. ICE Corporation has designed and manufactured products ranging from ice protection systems, electro-thermal anti-icing and de-icing, to avionic systems and systems monitoring equipment to a new line of robust sensorless motor controllers for both military and civilian aircraft. ICE's products are known for durability and reliability within the extreme environments known to the aircraft industry.

The controller is the WheelTug system's most complex component. It forms the nerve center of the WheelTug system, interfacing and interacting with both personnel and aircraft systems. While WheelTug has had prototype controllers operating in the lab for several years, this agreement will provide for a complete and certificatable system that is optimized for aerospace requirements.

Randy O'Boyle, ICE President and CEO, said, "The ICE Corporation has a 30+ year history of entrepreneurship in aviation. Our innovations in power electronics and high power control for aviation make us the perfect partner for this tremendous new aviation product. We're excited to join the WheelTug team in leveraging this new technology to reduce aviation fuel costs and improve operating efficiencies while economically making the planet a safer place. Years from now, people in the industry will be saying, 'Why didn't we think of that?'"

Isaiah Cox, WheelTug President and CEO, said, "ICE is the perfect partner; as an organization they are a pleasure to work with, and their engineering skills are unparalleled. We have no doubt that WheelTug customers will benefit from such a reliable, robust, and lightweight controller."

WheelTug is moving rapidly, with its partners including ICE, in development of the system. Final specifications for the initial 737NG model are expected to be available to potential airline customers within the coming months.

Systems for other aircraft types will then be developed as rapidly as possible. In addition to ICE, WheelTug is working with Luxell Technology and Co-Operative Industries as partners for the cockpit interface and wire harness, respectively.

In terms of aircraft availability and services, WheelTug is now working with several different airlines, and expects to formalize one or more of those relationships shortly. As of April 29, Delta Air Lines, an early partner, will no longer be a development partner, so 737NG installation and maintenance rights previously reserved for Delta's TOC will be available to other MRO organizations.

ICE Corporation, based in Manhattan, Kansas, designs and manufactures precision electronics components for the aerospace, automotive, industrial and agricultural industries.

WheelTug plc, based in Gibraltar, is developing the WheelTug electric drive system to move aircraft on the ground. WheelTug is a majority-owned subsidiary of Chorus Motors plc (PINKSHEETS: CHOMF). Forward Looking Statement may be found at

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