Honeywell, Safran Demo Electric Taxiing System For Airlines

 - June 18, 2013, 8:50 AM
Honeywell president and CEO Tim Mahoney, left, and Safran chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Herteman, briefed reporters on the companies’ electric green taxiing system (EGTS) on Sunday in Paris. (Photo: Bill Carey)

Honeywell and Safran said they have completed the first major phase of testing of their electric green taxiing system (EGTS), which is installed on an Airbus A320 that will conduct daily demonstrations at the Paris Air Show through Friday. On Monday, the companies announced a memorandum of understanding with Air France to further develop the system. The agreement “will enable Air France to analyze the potential technical, operational and financial benefits of the EGTS,” according to the companies.

The EGTS International 50/50 joint venture between Honeywell (Chalet B67) and Safran (Hall Concorde 54), announced at the 2011 Paris Air Show, is developing the EGTS. The system enables aircraft to push back autonomously from the gate and taxi to the runway without engaging the main engines by using the APU generator to power electric motors in the main landing gear.

The joint venture contends the EGTS system will improve airline operating efficiency during taxi and cut fuel consumption by up to four percent per flight cycle net of any weight penalty. (The system as currently fitted to the A320 weighs 300 kilograms or 661 pounds.) A short- or medium-range aircraft that spends two and a half hours on taxiways each day could save 600 kilograms of fuel, the companies estimate. The system also promises indirect benefits by reducing wear and tear on engines and brakes and lessening the risk of damage to engine turbines from foreign objects on airport surfaces.

“Air France’s aircraft utilize a number of heavily used airports, and the EGTS can provide a decisive economic advantage at these airports, while also reducing emissions and noise in the terminal environment,” the companies said. “From early analysis, Air France expects to save the equivalent of several percent fuel burn per cycle based on its current operations, for its fleet of 120-plus short- and medium-range aircraft.”

Safran chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Herteman and Honeywell president and CEO Tim Mahoney provided an update on the EGTS system development on Sunday before the air show. They said the component system and aircraft test program has accumulated more than 3,000 hours on test benches and rigs, including maneuvers by the modified A320 in Toulouse, France. Since the aircraft’s first powered move in April, the EGTS has logged nearly 100 miles of rolling tests to evaluate the system’s performance in various load configurations and runway conditions while conducting maneuvers such as pushback, tight turns and U-turns.

Following the Paris Air Show, the test program’s next major milestone will be to conduct maneuvers at 20 knots, with the aircraft at maximum takeoff weight. “The team has been incredibly focused on system maturation. This is not just about achieving the demonstration at the Paris Air Show,” Mahoney said.

The executives said the system’s price has not been established, but that its cost will enable an acceptable return on investment to airlines. The EGTS will be offered off the production line from aircraft manufacturers or as a retrofit option. “Priority one is to work with the OEMs for a forward-fit on the aircraft,” Mahoney said. “However, it’s been architected such that there would be very few and minor changes to the aircraft on a retrofit basis. That’s been one of the key design parameters. Specifically, I’m aware of at least 50 airlines that the team has interacted with where there has been very vibrant and enthusiastic interest in bringing this product to market.”

BOX 1:

WheelTug signs electric drive agreement with Icelandair

On June 12, WheelTug said it signed a purchase agreement with Icelandair for deliveries of its nosegear electric drive system. Icelandair is the first Boeing 737 Max future operator to reserve delivery slots for the system. Earlier this month, WheelTug and Germany’s airberlin signed a declaration of intent to install the system, including an option for system installations on 47 Boeing 737NGs and 63 Airbus A320s. WheelTug claims that 11 airlines have now reserved 573 delivery slots to install the system. It plans to begin deliveries in late 2014.

WheelTug (Hall 5 E264) estimates its tug system will save airlines $700,000 per aircraft per year. The company said it would offer the system to airlines on a lease or a power-by-the-hour basis, “so that the systems can be installed and operated on aircraft without any capital expenditure on the part of the airline whatsoever.” In the past year, WheelTug introduced “The WheelTug Twist,” a maneuver that enables the aircraft to move nose-first into the gate and then drive the nose wheels sideways for a 90-degree rotation to facilitate passenger loading and unloading at two doors.

BOX 2:

IAI TaxiBot airs for 2014 deliveries

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said it is in advance negotiations with several potential customers for the sale of 180 TaxiBots, a semi-robotic tow tug that is controlled from the cockpit using the airplane’s tiller and normal braking system and that can move the airplane up to 23 knots. The TaxiBot is on display at IAI’s exhibit (Chalet A206), and the company plans to begin deliveries in the second quarter of 2014.

TaxiBot trials with ground-support equipment company Lufthansa LEOS have started in Frankfurt, Germany, with the first serial production vehicle. The trial begins with certification testing on a Lufthansa Boeing 737, which will be followed by taxiing for revenue flights. Ran Briar, IAI’s TaxiBot program director, said development of the narrowbody TaxiBot model is completed, and the low-rate production of the first four units has started. The model designed for widebody aircraft remains under development through the end of the year. The company plans to begin testing that system in 2014.

IAI would not disclose the system’s cost, but said that calculations by aviation consultancy ICF SH&E and studies conducted with airport and airline customers indicate a return on investment to airlines of one to two years, “which is a very compelling business for them.”