We?ve seen commercial aircraft become lighter and lighter in recent years in an effort to increase fuel efficiency, and now Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) has made its own contribution to the aerospace industry?s fuel conservation movement with taxibot, a passenger jet towing vehicle that renders it unnecessary for planes to operate their engines on the tarmac.
At many airports, the passenger gates are several miles from the runways, and the drive to the runway consumes huge quantities of jet fuel. For example, a Boeing 747 consumes a ton of jet fuel every 17 minutes.
IAI taxibot project manager, Ron Brayer, claims airlines will save billions of dollars on fuel and improve plane safety by turning their engines off after landing.
IAI VP business development Yehoshua Eldar said that the world’s airlines spend $7-8 billion a year just on taxiing from the passenger gates to the runway. “This does not even include the spending of additional hundreds of thousands of dollars on repairing breakdowns caused by accumulated engine damage from the sucking of items into the engines,” he said.
Lufthansa is testing a prototype at Chateauroux, a small airport southeast of Paris, says Arie Perry, IAI?s Taxibot program engineer. On 9 July, IAI and a daughter company of German airline Lufthansa, Lufthansa LEOS, signed a memorandum of understanding to test four systems beginning in March of next year, for six months.
That will mark the first operation use of the narrowbody version of the vehicle, which can move aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 757 or Airbus A320. A widebody version, able to move larger aircraft like the Boeing 767 or Airbus A380, is still in the works but is scheduled to begin testing next year.
Beginning next year, while the Lufthansa evaluation is ongoing, ?we will try to sell it,? Perry says. ?We are looking for a launch customer.
IAI estimates the cost of the taxibot at $3 million, and the company expects to sell 1,500 taxibots to airlines by 2020.Read More