Airbus intensifies support for 'green taxi' system

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Airbus has endorsed Honeywell and Safran’s jointly developed electric taxiing system for current-generation A320s.

The airframer signed a tentative agreement with EGTS International – a Honeywell-Safran joint venture named after their "Electric Green Taxiing System" – to support the equipment’s further development both as a line- and retrofit option on the narrowbody family.

This follows a December 2011 deal in which Airbus agreed to offer the system only on the re-engined A320neo series, scheduled to enter service in 2015.

The new memorandum is a “critical milestone”, says Brian Wenig, Honeywell’s vice-president for the EGTS programme. “Airbus will provide extremely valuable insight to facilitate a seamless integration into the aircraft,” he says

Over the next few months, the three manufacturers are to reinforce their teams to jointly develop a “global commercial case and implementation plan to determine the feasibility of an electric taxiing solution for the A320 family”, they say.

Entry into service is planned for 2016. However, Honeywell and Safran also want to offer the system for Boeing 737s.

Airbus’s employment of “eTaxi” as a term for the main-wheel-mounted drive system is a small but significant detail. The name was previously used for a rival system proposed by US technology group L-3 Communications.

Airbus supported demonstrator system tests for that equipment on a Lufthansa A320 in Frankfurt in December 2011. L-3 recruited Crane Aerospace as a partner in 2012, but they could not agree on the investment for the system’s development and called off the programme earlier this year.

On a typical A320 trip, using an APU-powered electric wheel-drive system for taxiing and push-back from aircraft stands should save around 4% of fuel over conventional operations where the main engines are employed for forward ground movement, say Honeywell and Safran.

“Taxiing-related” carbon and nitrous oxide emissions would be cut by more than half, they add.

Other benefits include lower noise, shorter engine run times and reduced likelihood of powerplant damage through foreign object ingestion on the ground.

Click here for more on electric taxiing.