Ward Leonard to build motors for WheelTug electric drive

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WheelTug has tapped Ward Leonard Electric to develop and build the motors and associated mechanical components for its on-ground electric drive system for aircraft.

The WheelTug electric drive system is based on twin electric motors installed in the nose gear wheels of an aircraft, providing mobility while on the ground, without the use of the aircraft's jet engines or external tugs for both pushback and taxi operations.

The risk-sharing agreement with Ward Leonard gives the Thomaston, Connecticut-based firm exclusive rights to build the motor, bearings, gearing, and other components housed within the hub of each nose gear wheel for the Boeing 737NG, the initial WheelTug model. Ward Leonard also has an option to acquire Wheeltug shares. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

"Ward Leonard's long experience with high reliability motors for use in severe applications will be a strong complement to WheelTug's development team in developing and achieving FAA certification for the drive system. I have great confidence that we will be successful together," says Ward Leonard chairman and CEO Jon Carter.

WheelTug says it is in talks with both airframe manufacturers and airlines regarding development of WheelTug models for additional commercial aircraft types, as well as for military aircraft.

The company's other risk-sharing partners currently include Co-Operative Industries for the wire harness, Luxell Technology for the cockpit interface, and ICE Corp for the system controller.