TaxiBot, a semi-robotic pilot-controlled vehicle, is designed to transport airline aircraft from terminal gates to the runway and back, without using the airplane's own engines (dispatch towing). TaxiBot's in-service evaluation is expected to start next month, with regular commercial Lufthansa Boeing 737 flights departing out of Frankfurt Airport.
Since 2008 IAI, along with its industrial risk-sharing partner TLD, has been cooperating with Lufthansa LEOS in the development of the TaxiBot, with the support of both OEMs Airbus and Boeing. Lufthansa LEOS has integrated the TaxiBot project into its “E-PORT-AN” initiative, aimed at taking passenger airplane towing and surface traffic performance beyond the existing limits of environmental sustainability at Frankfurt Airport.
Leading airlines, ground-handling companies, airports and leasing companies around the world have shown considerable interest in TaxiBot. Several working groups are actively studying and preparing to introduce TaxiBot in some of the world’s leading airport hubs, in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Airbus NTO (No Technical Objection) approval is expected to be issued soon for TaxiBot operational tests in Frankfurt. This will allow TaxiBot to dispatch Airbus A320s before takeoff. The Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 airplane families comprise over seventy percent of the world’s mainliner airplanes, hence the potential market is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The return on investment for airlines is less than two years. Advanced negotiations are progressing with several potential customers.
IAI President and CEO, Joseph Weiss said: “EASA certification is a major milestone for the TaxiBot program. This innovative system will create an eco-friendly revolution in the commercial aviation industry, and will save millions of dollars in fuel savings for airlines, ground-handling companies and airports worldwide. We are proud and honored of this achievement.”
Julie Felgar, Boeing Commercial Airplanes managing director of Environmental Strategy and Integration, said: “We continually look for opportunities to reduce fuel use by customers to support their businesses and reduce carbon emissions. We were pleased to support IAI in their efforts to qualify TaxiBot for use with the 737, which will help our customers save fuel on the ground."
“Lufthansa LEOS has supported the TaxiBot project since its inception. We look forward to validating the TaxiBot savings we calculated with our daily Lufthansa Boeing 737 operation at Frankfurt Airport,” said Gerhard Baumgarten, TaxiBot program director at Lufthansa LEOS.
"The Boeing 737 STC certification is a key step for the TaxiBot program. The certification provides evidence to the aviation industry for the feasibility of dispatch towing technology and its potential of saving millions of dollars to the various airlines. The entire TLD team is very proud of this achievement,” said TLD President and CEO, Jean-Marie Fulconis.
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