SOURCE: WheelTug plc

WheelTug plc

July 14, 2011 08:30 ET

WheelTug Building Aircraft Drive System, Appoints New Directors

GIBRALTAR--(Marketwire - Jul 14, 2011) - WheelTug plc, developer of an innovative aircraft electric drive system, said today its development team of risk sharing partners ( has completed the engineering and design work for its demonstrator system. Fabrication and assembly are underway. The initial version of the WheelTug® system is being built for the popular Boeing 737NG aircraft.

The WheelTug system brings front-wheel drive to aircraft, with twin electrical motors in the nosewheels giving aircraft greater maneuverability and efficiency during ground movements such as reversing from a gate and taxiing to and from a runway, as well as reducing fuel consumption, foreign object damage (FOD), and emissions.

While independent ground maneuverability by aircraft has long been an industry dream, WheelTug's innovative engines-off taxi technology is becoming a widespread industry expectation. The company expects to test-drive its prototype system on a Boeing 737-800 in early 2012, and expects to begin deliveries of certificated production models by early 2013.

The patented and proprietary WheelTug electric drive system uses high-performance electric motors, installed in the nose landing gear wheels of an aircraft, to provide full mobility while on the ground without the use of the aircraft's jet engines or tugs for both pushback and taxi operations. WheelTug enables aircraft to be electrically driven from the terminal gate to the takeoff runway, and upon landing from runway exit to the gate. The resulting improvements in efficiency, flexibility, fuel savings, and reduced noise and engine foreign object damage (FOD) yield projected savings of more than $500,000 per aircraft per year, plus substantial reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.

The WheelTug system is being developed initially for the Boeing 737NG, one of the world's most widely-flown aircraft; systems for other commercial and military aircraft will follow. WheelTug is developing the system with a team of partner companies capable of providing airlines with fully-operational systems, and at a rapid development pace for a major new aerospace technology.

Meanwhile, the company continues to add to its extensive patent coverage of all aspects of an onboard electric drive system for aircraft. A recent U.S. patent, titled "Turnaround Methods," U.S. 7,891,609, describes how such a system can operate to reduce between-flight turnaround times and costs, improve ramp safety and control, and improve efficiencies for both aircraft and airports.

New Directors Appointed

The company also announced the appointment of two new members to its Board of Directors, Warren L. Serenbetz Jr. and Jan Vana.

Mr. Serenbetz is currently the President of Radcliff Group Inc. and the Managing General Partner of Hickory Enterprises LP. In these roles he has strategic planning and operational management responsibility for a $125 million investment / venture capital portfolio. Investment and management support has been provided to businesses in transportation, shipping, medical mobility devices, restaurants, real estate, banking, records management, specialty beverages and internet based lending.

Mr. Serenbetz is also a Director at People Capital, an internet based lending platform with proprietary software for evaluating borrowers' creditworthiness. From 2004 until its sale in 2007 he was a Director at Interpool, Inc. one of the world's largest container and chassis leasing companies.

Prior to assuming his current roles Mr. Serenbetz was vice president of marketing at Pechiney Plastics Packaging Inc. In that role he was responsible for strategic planning, market plan development and execution, intellectual property management and e-business integration for the Americas operations of a $750 million multinational consumer goods packaging business with facilities in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Mr. Serenbetz graduated from Lehigh University in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and received a MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in 1978. Mr. Serenbetz's personal interests include serving as the Chairman of the Board of Finance in his hometown in Wilton, Connecticut and providing educational assistance to close the educational achievement gap through the Serenbetz Family Foundation.

Mr. Vana is currently owner of CONSULTJAN, Ltd., aviation advisory and consultancy company in Prague, Czech Republic, and is leading WheelTug's development and marketing efforts in Europe. Previously he was commercial director of ABS Jets, the largest business jet provider in Eastern Europe; and executive director of Czech Airlines, with wide responsibilities for strategy and for fleet selection, acquisition and financing, and was also the airline's representative at AEA, the Association of European Airlines, and to the Sky Team alliance.

Mr. Vana's earlier career was in the various military and government roles. He was a jet pilot in the Czechoslovak Air Force, and later served in the Czech Republic's Ministry of Defence, including as vice-minister of Defence, responsible for reform of the Czech Armed Forces and their integration into NATO and the EU. Mr. Vana also previously was the Representative of the Czech Republic at NATO and at the NATO Defence Planning and Review Committees, the NATO Nuclear Planning Committee, and other NATO and EU military structures.

Mr. Vana graduated from the Czechoslovak Air Force Academy in 1984 and in 1993 from the U.S. Air University, Air Command and Staff College. He is based in Prague, Czech Republic.

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