WheelTug plc has joined IATA’s Ground Operations Automation & Digitalization Group as a Strategic Partner. The goal is to help IATA and the entire aviation industry further improve the efficiency of airside operations.
Joseph Suidan, IATA’s Head of Ground Operations, commented on WheelTug joining the association: “IATA ground operations is delighted to have WheelTug join its network of Strategic Partners. We are looking forward to including their input to our initiatives for enhancing aircraft turnaround operations and improving the airside working environment”.
WheelTug plc is in the final certification stages of its WheelTug system, a fully removable retrofit electric drive system installed into the nose wheels of an aircraft. This electric taxi (e-taxi) system enables pilot-controlled taxiing and maneuvers in gate and terminal areas without the use of tugs or jet engines. The main benefit is a reduction of the time aircraft spend on the ground; this results in increased aircraft utilization, fuel savings, and reduced engine and brake wear, as well as the elimination of pushback risks and costs.
The WheelTug system also significantly contributes to the aviation industry’s effort to lower the emissions footprint of aircraft ground operations.
WheelTug CEO Isaiah Cox notes: “Every airplane flies at the same speed; it is time on the ground that is the biggest differentiator for profitable operations. WheelTug and e-taxi are here to help airlines optimize their airside operations. Our WheelTug system improves many aspects of airline and airport operations. We have been cooperating with multiple IATA groups for many years, but we decided to become an IATA Strategic Partner in 2021, as the strategic objectives of IATA and WheelTug are well aligned. WheelTug is now in the final phase of our preparations for entry into service.”
In parallel with the WheelTug system, WheelTug is also developing WheelTug Vision, an on-board camera and sensor system that will improve pilots’ situational awareness in order to minimize the risk of collision with other aircraft, personnel, or unseen objects.
To enable all the benefits these complementary systems offer, WheelTug has launched the FASTGate (Fast And Safe Turn) innovation project to design and implement airport gates optimized for WheelTug e-taxi maneuvers. These gates will increase airport throughput, efficiency, and safety, as it also improves passenger satisfaction through shorter waiting times. FASTGate, WheelTug and WheelTug Vision together will enable future airside automation through integrated data sharing; this will enhance airport collaborative decision-making (A-CDM) and streamline and automate airside and airport processes.
WheelTug is cooperating on the development of its products with several partner companies based primarily in the US and Europe, including manufacturing, forging, engineering, and test houses. Airports across the globe are also contributing to the effort. At a successful public event conducted at Memphis International Airport (MEM) in September 2020, various use cases of the WheelTug system were demonstrated (video at www.wheeltug.com). WheelTug plans to enter into service in early 2022 for Boeing 737NG aircraft.
WheelTug has signed letters of intent from more than 25 airlines representing over 2,000 aircraft – already 15% of all 737s and A320s in service (13,000). In 2020, WheelTug doubled the number of positions reserved by airlines.
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