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avpeep
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Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:21 am

Electric taxiing tug?

Tue Jun 09, 2020 7:17 pm

A while ago someone here was talking about electric nosewheel taxiing, and it looked like the concept (think it was WheelTug for the 737) got stuck in development because of the added weight.

My question then is why not just have a remote controlled electric tug that can be steered from the cockpit? Have the plane taxi with it from gate to runway, and then have the tug move itself back to some starting position (e.g. autonomously by itself or remotely driven). Definitely not an airport ops expert here though... am I missing something?
 
hitower3
Posts: 158
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2016 9:55 am

Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Wed Jun 10, 2020 2:21 pm

I would think that, while your idea might sound interesting, there are likely the following drawbacks:
- Aircraft compatibility. Traditional tug need to connect to different aircraft by the means of different bars. Some exotic aircraft even need to carry their own tow bar in order to get pushed.
- Pilot training. It's not straightforward to operate the vehicle.
- Pilot overload. Making the pilots do the job, in addition to the many other duties in the flight deck during push-back, poses a potential safety problem.
- Engine pre-heat. Tugging the plane to the runway will force the pilots to park the plane for a few minutes after spool-up (or spool up the engines during electrical taxi), in order to get the engines up to the required temperature for takeoff.

I would therefore make a different suggestion: a traditional tug, with electrical drive instead of diesel.
- Electric motors provide the highest torque at 0rpm, important to get the plane moving.
- Batteries are heavy, but the weight is needed anyway, to provide enough friction.
- Batteries should be supplemented with supercaps, to provide peak power delivery and absorption.
- The kinetic energy of the rolling plane can be recovered during the slow down of the plane
- Less noise, less pollution, less maintenance compared to diesel tugs

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Hendric
 
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trpmb6
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Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:40 pm

I'd be concerned about having to double the number of vehicles moving around on the taxi ways. Additional failure modes... Pilot tries to take off with the tug still attached.. etc.
 
battlegroup62
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Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:05 am

Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:38 pm

trpmb6 wrote:
I'd be concerned about having to double the number of vehicles moving around on the taxi ways. Additional failure modes... Pilot tries to take off with the tug still attached.. etc.


How bout using the tug to get the plane up to speed like a carrier catapult. It would save fuel :D
We have to keep planes airworthy. That doesn't mean they have to fly.
 
planecane
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Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Thu Jun 11, 2020 10:59 am

In percentage terms, worldwide, what is the fuel burn of taxi vs all flight?
 
StereoTechque
Posts: 186
Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:24 am

Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Thu Jun 11, 2020 4:49 pm

hitower3 wrote:
I would think that, while your idea might sound interesting, there are likely the following drawbacks:
- Aircraft compatibility. Traditional tug need to connect to different aircraft by the means of different bars. Some exotic aircraft even need to carry their own tow bar in order to get pushed.
- Pilot training. It's not straightforward to operate the vehicle.
- Pilot overload. Making the pilots do the job, in addition to the many other duties in the flight deck during push-back, poses a potential safety problem.
- Engine pre-heat. Tugging the plane to the runway will force the pilots to park the plane for a few minutes after spool-up (or spool up the engines during electrical taxi), in order to get the engines up to the required temperature for takeoff.


Those are some very valid points you made. Adding to these, most faults appear during electrical power transfer from APU to Engine for eg. and can result in a ground turn back. Hence as far as possible Flight crew prefer starting engines after pushback with ground personnel on headset exception being Single Engine Taxi.
Also, considering the present cash crunch due COVID, no airline will be willing to experiment on such technologies and infrastructure let alone the extra training cost.
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trpmb6
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Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Thu Jun 11, 2020 4:50 pm

battlegroup62 wrote:
trpmb6 wrote:
I'd be concerned about having to double the number of vehicles moving around on the taxi ways. Additional failure modes... Pilot tries to take off with the tug still attached.. etc.


How bout using the tug to get the plane up to speed like a carrier catapult. It would save fuel :D


Introduces an issue with rejected take offs. But maybe the system could also have a feature to also stop the aircraft.
 
strfyr51
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Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:04 pm

Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:05 am

trpmb6 wrote:
I'd be concerned about having to double the number of vehicles moving around on the taxi ways. Additional failure modes... Pilot tries to take off with the tug still attached.. etc.

The concept of having a tug take an airplane to the runway had already been considered and the tugs are actually available to do just such a thing. The high speed tugs lift and cradle the nose landing hear eliminating the towbar. The problem is? getting the airplanes to the departure end is not a problem, Getting the tugs Back to the terminal safely IS the problem because Many major Airports have crossing runways the tugs would need to cross to get back to the terminal in a timely manner for their next departing airplane. . And? Those tugs are damn Expensive. to Operate and Maintain.
 
mxaxai
Posts: 1807
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2016 7:29 am

Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:20 pm

battlegroup62 wrote:
trpmb6 wrote:
I'd be concerned about having to double the number of vehicles moving around on the taxi ways. Additional failure modes... Pilot tries to take off with the tug still attached.. etc.


How bout using the tug to get the plane up to speed like a carrier catapult. It would save fuel :D

Better yet, put the tug on a conveyor belt :duck:

Jokes aside, electric tugs would be perfect due to their high weight (batteries) and high torque (electric motor). I think we will see them sooner or later. Some airports already use electric tugs for cargo and bags.

Autonomous tugs, on the other hand, are not quite as easy though certainly simpler than autonomous cars (since the airport environment is easy to control, no pedestrians etc). There are regular diesel powered tugs that can be steered from the cockpit, but these are mostly used for moving from one parking position to another.
Tugging to/from the runway does face the problem that jet engines cannot go to full power immediately after startup, they need a few minutes of idling to warm up / cool down. It would only make sense for very long taxi distances, e. g. Shiphol's Polderbaan.
 
DALMD80
Posts: 488
Joined: Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:25 pm

Re: Electric taxiing tug?

Tue Jun 16, 2020 4:08 pm

One idea may be to increase the size/capacity of the Best Tugs Romeo, a remote controlled electric tug. https://www.besttugs.com/pages/lineup
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