View Full Version : Efficient and Safe Taxi

28th Jan 2010, 13:59
I heard that a German company is developing a totally unmanned
and automated guided towing vehicle for autonomous movement at
airports. Idea is saving fuel, reducing incursions, aircraft damage
and solving safety issues.

The concept is basing on towbarless tractors towing aircrafts from
the runway to the gate and back without using aircraft engines.

Sounds interesting.

Any guess?

28th Jan 2010, 14:15

This one has been done to death a million times before. Every once in a while someone new thinks of this, claiming it to be the best thing since sliced bread. But I think most of us has yet to see one operating, for various reasons. The search function may be able to tell you more.

28th Jan 2010, 14:35
well, I guess it will only be worth the investment in airports where the taxi is very long, engines have limitations in this respect , you can't just start the engines and start the take-off roll, they need time to warm-up, the type i fly requires a minimum of 2 minutes, and that is if the weather is not too cold, if it is too cold you may have to increase the warm-up time before you can start the take-off.
Then you have the issue of providing ventilation, and Some aircraft have no APU, on some others the APU does not provide bleed air , or the APU may be not working, even if you do have APU, it is already burning fuel.
You also need a electric power source for vital systems to work, and that would be too much for batteries fitted in most airliners.

Some companies taxi on 1 engine and no APU untill approaching the holding point to save money.

It would have to be planed together with aircraft designers, so aircrafts built in the coming years have some sort of standarized electric driven ventilation system and the towing machine should provide electricity, a sort of mix of a GPU and towing vehicle all in one. But even then, imagine the queues it would create (the thing would have to stop, disconect the system, then move away, of course the crew would start engines with no ground visual indications or feedback, etc etc), also the price of the service is possibly higher than the fuel burned on taxi, at least at current fuel prices.
It does not surprise me it is a German company the one studing it, they have a specific tax for aviation fuel in germany, and itīs quite a high one, can't remember the exact percentage, AFAIK only german operators pay it if operating to/from/within germany, foreign companies do not pay it.

I do not see it as something happening in the short term at least, but that is just my opinion.
I will be interested to see what the future will bring in this automatic assisted taxi system.


28th Jan 2010, 14:36
Lots of variables here, at a busy airport it could be a logistical nightmare. Some under taxi some under tow, more traffic and activity on the taxiways/increased incursion threat, Communications with ground/manpower, who provides the service... the airport? Like to see the bill for this one... Seems like someone is out to get a piece of the airlines normal fuel expendatures. I am all for single/dual engine taxi at a congested airport, this is a bit much though.

I can see it now, gear pin sucked up at the RWY hold short line by an aircraft powering onto the RWY for a rolling T/O or for that matter any other crap that could fall off a tug.

28th Jan 2010, 20:31
Engines could be started on the move and given the 2 minutes. Once stable the a/c could be 'dropped' and on its way.

On i/b flights at places like LHR where taxi times are up to 40 mins...that is a lot of fuel!!

Pugilistic Animus
29th Jan 2010, 22:42
I guess they are trying tol keep the runup pad clear of jets,..:rolleyes:

It would help them find the lost jet keys if they needed extra time though:rolleyes:

and the best way to save the world is to have us all float away in pink and yellow balloons and hope that the wind shall just carry us home:zzz:

Teddy Robinson
30th Jan 2010, 00:43
The Germans can.... and make it user friendly.

30th Jan 2010, 02:45
Would autonomous tow trucks help this guy out?
YouTube - JFK ATC Bad Day at the office - Funny (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyO-bWGxWBU&feature=related)

Didn't the US Navy give up with computers organising flat top movements and went back to people shoving models around with poles?

30th Jan 2010, 06:08
Wasn't there an issue with possible stressing of the nose gear when Virgin had that phase of being towed to a holding point before take off at LHR?

Wouldn't that mean the same issue with an "automatic tug"?

30th Jan 2010, 12:30
Not to mention it doubles the number of taxi movements, as each towing machine must move back to the ramp for the next aircraft, after delivering an aircraft to the runway. You would probably have to design another series of thin taxiways for this (rather than reverse-direction operations on a taxiway), which would then introduce immense complexity at intersections for crossing taxiway operations etc etc etc :rolleyes:

1st Feb 2010, 08:43
Nice recording. Sciolistes.

With automated tugs, all controlled by a computer system, they maybe wouldn't be get mixed up this way.

1st Feb 2010, 11:44
Anyone ever notice the big fire extinguisher that usually sits under just about every gate / jet-way on the planet?

I like starting the engines close to that big fire extinguisher, not hundreds of meters away from it all on my own somewhere. But, that's just me!