WheelTug has successfully completed the installation and testing of its in-wheel electric drive system, a fully integrated ground propulsion system for an aircraft, on a Germania 737-700 aircraft in the Czech Republic.
Installed inside the two front nose wheels of the aircraft, the system has two powerful electric motors that make use of electricity generated by the aircraft's auxiliary power unit (APU).
During the four day 'M1' system test conducted at Prague Ruzyne Airport, pilots were able to move and push back the plane without using an external tug or turning on the engines.
The electric drive system has been tested on all types of pavement along with wet and oil-slicked tarmac to date and is expected to offer savings of more $200 for each flight.
WheelTug ceo Isaiah Cox said: "The small and powerful M1 WheelTug, built into the nose wheel and powered solely by the aircraft's APU, moves a commercial aircraft through the full range of pushback and taxi manoeuvres across a broad range of weather and surface conditions."
The system's use will reduce fuel usage, decrease CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, as well as improve safety and flexibility of airport operations.
WheelTug system is also expected to provide airlines with quick turnaround times, reduced engine wear and repair costs, as well as cut airport noise pollution.
Germania Airline captain Patrick Hintzen said there have been many delays on pushback and it is where the airline has the least control of aircraft.
"With WheelTug, we are freed from the 'chains' that keep us parked at the gate," he said.
Designed for rapid retrofit, the new WheelTug electric drive system is expected to enter into service on 737NG and A320 lines of aircraft and the company has received 215 orders from European, Middle East, and Asian airlines.
Image: Germania 737-700 aircraft to be equipped with WheelTug Electric Drive System. Photo: courtesy of Per aspera ad Astra.