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Ground Operations: A Change is Coming

There is change coming in airport ground operations: Aircraft electric taxi is due to launch in 2021, delivered by the ground-breaking company WheelTug. WheelTug technology attaches a motorised mechanism to the front wheel, allowing the aircraft to move forward and backward without engine power or being towed.

Summer 2020 brought the aviation community a demonstration of WheelTug in Memphis, Tennessee. WheelTug utilised a B737 operated by the Spanish airline, AlbaStar, through an ACMI deal put together by Brookfield Aviation International Leasing Ltd. Alongside the self-powered front wheel, two camera pods with four cameras each were attached to the aircraft, allowing the pilots to gain a 360-degree view around the plane, thus giving the pilots the vision to taxi the aircraft from the cockpit.

Introducing this system into the industry will create several cost-saving changes for airlines and airports. No longer needing a tug to move the aircraft back and forth from the gate means there is a savings on their ground operations’ labour costs because there is a smaller number of personnel required, plus a savings on pushback charges. There is also a savings on fuel consumption, as WheelTug is self-powered, allowing the plane to move without switching on the engines. However, one of the largest benefits is the time the airline will be able to save during the taxi process, as delays usually occur through the ground operation process. Airline schedules incorporate these delays into their operating schedules, but WheelTug’s system is designed to drastically reduce the amount of time the aircraft needs to spend on the ground before its next take-off. This will inevitably speed the entire process up, hopefully relieving passengers from long take-off and landing times.

2020 has been a very difficult year for the airline industry. Airline executives will be looking at many ways to help drive down the overall operating costs in order to protect the longevity of their airlines. WheelTug will play an integral part of this cost reduction process of ground operations and also bring greater efficiency for passenger travel time.

Brookfield Aviation is proud to have played a role in the process of WheelTug’s demonstration though our introduction of AlbaStar. Our sales and leasing department is here to help the aviation community fulfil their requirements, through short or long term ACMI and dry leasing, or the sale / purchase of aircraft. For more information regarding our services, please contact Todd Skaggs, VP Strategic Partnerships


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