Italian airline Livingston Compagnia Aerea has entered into slot purchase agreement to lease WheelTugAircraft Drive Systems for installation on its fleet of Airbus A320s.
The WheelTug electric drive system features high-performance electric motors, installed in the nose gear wheels of an aircraft to provide full mobility to the aircraft while on the ground, eliminating the need for the aircraft's jet engines or tugs for both pushback and taxi operations.
The existing commercial aviation practice uses a tug for aircraft gate pushback, while forward taxi is powered by the aeroplane's engines.
It is estimated that a taxiing, the Airbus A320 burns 24lb to 27lb of fuel per minute.
The WheelTug system requires 4lb of fuel a minute by using the aircraft's auxiliary power unit (APU), offering an 80% reduction in ground operation fuel consumption.
The use of WheelTug Aircraft Drive Systems offer substantial reduction in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, as well as increased safety and flexibility of operations, faster turnaround times, reduced engine wear and repair costs, and decreased noise pollution.
WheelTug stated that its system would offer total savings of around $700,000 for each airliner per annum.
In June 2012, WheelTug successfully installed and tested the first in-wheel system in Prague.
Livingston, which has its main base in Milan Malpensa, Italy, operates a fleet of five Airbus A320-232 for short, medium-haul routes and an A330-243 for long-haul routes; in addition, it has four A320s on order.
Image: Livingston Compagnia Aerea will use the WheelTug Aircraft Drive Systems on its fleet of Airbus A320s. Photo: courtesy of New Livingston SpA.