WheelTug

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WheelTug is a privately traded company incorporated in Gibraltar in February 2005 holding patents for and doing research intended to produce a ground propulsion system for aircraft.[1] The patents and advertising describe placing a high torque electric motor into each of the nose wheels hubs intended to allow for backwards movement without the use of pushback tugs, to allow for forward movement without using the aircraft's engines, and to allow for rotation of the aircraft at the gate.[2] According to the Wheeltug website, by rotating the aircraft at the gate using WheelTug, both the front and rear door of the aircraft could potentially be used at a specially equipped gate to speed boarding.[3][unreliable source?] The planned two electric motors in the nosewheel, together projected by Wheeltug to weigh less than 150 kg,[citation needed] are hoped drive the aircraft with power supplied by the onboard auxiliary power unit rather than main engine thrust. According to AINonline an aviation website, in a comparison article on forthcoming e-taxi technology, Wheeltug is projected to reduce emissions, fuel consumption, brake wear, maintenance, noise, and engine damage from foreign object damage; the concerns being that the additional weight of a Wheeltug module in the nosewheel could be troublesome for safe retraction, that low traction conditions such as ice could preclude its use, as well as the concern that Wheeltug propelled aircraft would move too slowly to integrate with conventionally driven aircraft taxi traffic especially on non-level ground.[4][5]

The company owning the design, Wheeltug PLC, is a subsidiary of Chorus Motors which is also owned by Borealis Exploration; Wheeltug is not publicly traded.[6]

According to Fleets&Fuels website, a Wheeltug press release claims that in February 2014 their Order Book was 785 [7] pre-production “slot reservations” and the Wheeltug website lists the following airlines as potential customers: El Al, Jet Airways, Israair, Alitalia, Onur Air, KLM, Corendon Airlines, Airberlin, Iceland Air, Malaysia Airlines, Volaris, Air Transat, Hainan Airlines.[8][unreliable source?]

In a 2013 presentation at an industry conference Isaiah Cox, WheelTug's CEO, said Wheeltug would be offered to customers with no up-front cost in return for 50% of the savings realized by the airline.[9]

History[edit]

According to a joint press release in June 2005 Boeing Phantom Works and Chorus Motors ground tested the WheelTug concept on an Air Canada 767 at the Evergreen Air Center at Pinal Air Park in Marana, Arizona with an electric motor roller attached outside of the nose wheel for taxi testing.[10] Wheeltug and Delta Air Lines issued a joint press release in 2007 that Delta would become a development partner and launch customer for Wheeltug expecting first production units to be installed on Delta's 737s by late 2009.[11] Wheeltug signed an agreement in 2007 with Newport Aeronautical Development turnkey service to ensure FAA Supplemental Type Certificate on the Boeing 737NG by December 2009 as well as other assistance.[12] WheelTug Limited and Co-Operative Industries publicized completing an Electrical Load Measurement (ELM) on a B737NG in January 2010 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, GA to confirm sufficient power.[13] According to a Wheeltug press release, tests were conducted at Prague Airport in November 2010 in snowy and icy conditions. The first fully 'in-wheel' demonstration unit was tested at Prague Airport June 2012.[citation needed]

In Wheeltug 2014 annual report the independent audit by Moore Stephens says "Without modifying our opinion, we draw attention to note 1 in the financial statements which highlights the existence of a material uncertainty relating to conditions that may cast doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern."[14] This note describes the material uncertainty with the statement "In order to meet future expenditures and cover administrative costs, the Company may need to raise additional financing. Although the Company has been successful in raising funds to date, there can be no assurance that adequate funding will be available in the future, or available under terms favourable to the Company."[15]

In January 2015 WheelTug reported having received an aircraft from Air Transat for development and testing.[16]

According to Flightglobal.com in a 2014 interview with Wheeltug CEO Isaiah Cox an earliest entry into production would be in late 2015, he further says "WheelTug is now following an alternative strategy that will require no support from Airbus and Boeing." Wheeltug is hoping for FAA certification in late 2015 or early 2016. When asked about the Wheeltug press releases claiming expectations of receiving flightworthyness certifications in 2013 Cox told FLightglobal “our certification deadline has always been rolling”, being dependent on access to technical data which has so far been available to Wheeltug from neither Boeing nor Airbus. The same article also reported that all tests have been on variants of the Boeing 737 and that there was the challenge with the Airbus A320 of an unfavorable center of gravity and "A320’s slightly angled nose gear leg which, when fully deflected, causes one of the two wheels to come off the ground".[17]

Marketplace[edit]

As of 2015 Taxibot, a semi-robotic towbarless tractor which meets and connects to aircraft, is the only alternative taxiing system certified and currently in use by airlines in the market.

Taxibot meets and connects to an aircraft to tow from the terminal gate to the take-off point meet to return it to the gate after landing, when connected the pilot controls Taxibot.

Another competitor is being developed by EGTS International, their system installs ground taxi drive motors into the wheels of the main landing gear.[18] [19]

PlanePower

A further alternative is provided by PlanePower. PlanePower, by Aircraft Propulsion Technologies, LLC, is an innovative approach to reducing aircraft emissions during taxiing. It is based entirely on well-proven technology. It replaces the auxiliary power unit (APU), which is installed in all passenger airplanes to supply electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic power when the main engines are not operating, with a proven and certificated small business-jet type turbo fan jet thrust engine. In addition to the normal APU functions, it provides sole propulsive thrust for all taxiing operations without the main engines. It operates at a higher efficiency than the main engines for taxiing, reducing fuel consumption and emissions. It can also provide auxiliary thrust during take-off and in situations where both main engines have stopped operating in flight due to, for example, bird strikes.[20][21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.wheeltug.gi/company.php
  2. ^ Latin America and Caribbean Engineering & MRO Summit. "WheelTug - Far Beyond Savings" (PDF). http://www.alta.aero. pp. 13–14.  External link in |website= (help)
  3. ^ http://www.wheeltug.gi/reports/FY2014/Wheeltug_plc_annual_report_2014.pdf
  4. ^ "WheelTug, Safran-Honeywell and IAI Offer Three Rival Solutions for Airline Engine-off Taxiing". 
  5. ^ http://www.wheeltug.gi/reports/FY2014/Wheeltug_plc_annual_report_2014.pdf
  6. ^ http://www.wheeltug.gi/company.php
  7. ^ "WheelTug Claims 785 Aircraft Orders - Feb 23, 2014". FleetsAndFuels.com. 2014-02-23. 
  8. ^ "Customers". www.WheelTug.com. 
  9. ^ "Royal Aeronautical Society - Event - Toulouse Branch - Aircraft E-Taxi in the Fast Lane by WheelTug Electrically Powered Nose Wheel". aerosociety.com. 28 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Boeing Demonstrates New Technology for Moving Airplanes on the Ground - Aug 1, 2005" (Press release). Boeing.mediaroom.com. 2005-08-01. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  11. ^ http://news.delta.com/index.php?s=20295&item=123029
  12. ^ http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=conewsstory&tkr=CHOMF:US&sid=aoa_xOa10aWc
  13. ^ http://www.wheeltug.gi/press/pr_WT20100201.shtml Archived August 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ http://www.wheeltug.gi/reports/FY2014/Wheeltug_plc_annual_report_2014.pdf
  15. ^ "FY2014 Financial Statement" (PDF). www.WheelTug.com. pp. Page 12. In order to meet future expenditures and cover administrative costs, the Company may need to raise additional financing. Although the Company has been successful in raising funds to date, there can be no assurance that adequate funding will be available in the future, or available under terms favourable to the Company 
  16. ^ http://www.sys-con.com/node/3270361
  17. ^ http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/no-service-entry-for-wheeltug-system-before-late-2015-395490/
  18. ^ "WheelTug, Safran-Honeywell and IAI Offer Three Rival Solutions for Airline Engine-off Taxiing". 11 February 2014. 
  19. ^ http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/analysis-iai-to-start-widebody-taxibot-certification-in-409267/
  20. ^ IATA Aircraft Taxiing Systems Conference, Miami, February 3–4, 2015. www.iata.org/taxiing2015
  21. ^ Rival e-taxi developers stake their positions, IHS Jane's Airport Review, 07 May 2015

External links[edit]