L-3 stops electric taxi development

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L-3 Communications has called off the planned development of an electric taxi system for commercial aircraft.

The New York-headquartered technology group partnered with Crane Aerospace at the 2012 Farnborough air show to jointly develop an electrically powered wheel-drive mechanism for the main landing gear of narrowbody aircraft. But L-3 says that the co-operation with Crane has been called off as the required investment to develop such a system was deemed too high "in the current economic environment".

Sources close to the project say that L-3 is still interested in the development of an electric taxiing system, and is looking for alternative partnerships. But the company says it is not aware of any ongoing search for alternative partners and that work on the electric taxiing system has been "exited".

L-3 tested a demonstrator electric taxiing system on a Lufthansa Airbus A320 at Frankfurt airport in December 2011, in partnership with the airline and airframer. The non-flyable system was based on off-the-shelf components - which are employed in the automotive sector - to gather specification data for a purpose-made electric taxiing system.

A prototype system was due to be completed by early 2014 for the planned certification on either A320s or Boeing 737s by late 2015.

L-3 initially planned to develop the system alone, and Lufthansa's MRO arm was to serve as a retrofit partner to install the equipment on existing fleets. Later in 2012, however, L-3 recruited Crane to jointly develop and market the "GreenTaxi" system.

Crane was to become responsible for system control, power conversion electronics and integration of the equipment in the aircraft's systems monitoring architecture. L-3, meanwhile, would provide the electric motors and clutch mechanism.

Lufthansa Technik says it still interested to become a programme partner in an electric taxiing system, and speaking to alternative providers and airframers.

Crane Aerospace could not immediately be reached for comment.