SOURCE: WheelTug plc

WheelTug plc

June 20, 2011 22:02 ET

WheelTug 'Front-Wheel Drive' for Airplanes Improves Aviation Ground Operations

PARIS--(Marketwire - Jun 20, 2011) - The revolutionary onboard electrical drive system for aircraft being developed by WheelTug plc has stimulated aerospace industry efforts to revamp ground operations. Recent developments are being unveiled at the Paris Air Show this week.

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 a runway, as well as reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

New to WheelTug's display space at the Paris Air Show (Hall 4-5, Booth G10) is the latest WheelTug unit, designed for narrowbodied aircraft such as the Boeing 737NG and Airbus A320. WheelTug is also showing a hands-on demonstration WheelTug cockpit control panel by which the pilot will be able to control the system and maneuver the aircraft on the ground. The WheelTug team has been working on developing WheelTug's system design over the past year, and moving towards certification and entry into service.

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 in the near future, far sooner than government-devised industry roadmaps projected.

A new European Union agenda for the aeronautics industry, called Flightpath 2050 and set by the European Commission on Mobility and Transport, calls for aircraft to be emissions-free during taxi by 2050. WheelTug, which first demonstrated proof of concept hardware allowing taxiing without engines in 2005, expects to conduct on-aircraft tests within 6 months and to introduce the system into service in 2013.

"WheelTug will deliver in 2013 what the E.U. has set as a target for 2050," said Isaiah W. Cox, the company's president. "We are pleased to have successfully guided the industry here, first by demonstrating that the technology is viable and then by showing that the system's overall operating cost savings well exceed $500,000 per year on a typical narrowbody aircraft."

Now that WheelTug has proven both the concept and its potential value to the industry, several competitors have emerged. Taxibot is a pilot-driven tug system primarily for use on larger aircraft. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have shown an in-wheel design for use on the A320. And just this week, Safran and Honeywell announced a joint venture to offer an engines-off taxi solution in 2016.

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 years ahead of any competitor.

Forward-Looking Statement:

Contact Information

  • For more information:
    The WheelTug team at PAS11
    (Hall 4-5, Booth G10)
    Isaiah Cox
    +44 (0)20.7993.4293