WheelTug has entered into discussions with risk-sharing partners covering the cockpit interface, wire harness and inverter for its electric wheel drive for aircraft ground manoeuvring.
Patented motors developed by WheelTug parent, European manufacturer Chorus Motors, will comprise the core of the system, which will be built into the hubs of aircraft nose wheels and take its power from the auxiliary power unit (APU). This will give aircraft full ground mobility - forward and reverse with steering - without use of engines or external tugs.
The first motor designed specifically for Boeing 737NG aircraft will be ready for testing in May. The company is now looking to forge relationships with "suitable aerospace partners" for completing all components in the system, WheelTug CEO Isaiah Cox tells ATI.
Contracts for the cockpit interface, wire harness and inverter "are under discussion", with the first contract to be announced as early as this week.
WheelTug is looking to secure supplemental type certification covering Boeing 737-600, -700, -800 and -900 aircraft. An FAA-approved project-specific certification plan (PSCP) has been tagged to be completed after deals with partners are in place. While this plan delays the original strategy to have a PSCP in place this spring, it will not delay the entire certification program, assures Cox.
WheelTug has been testing the equipment with US launch customer Delta Air Lines, which invested in the company in early 2007. Delta's TechOps maintenance, repair and overhaul division has first refusal on all installation and maintenance services within the USA once the system is certificated and deployed.
In July the company also formed an alliance with a French group, Association pour le Developpement Durable dans l'Aviation Civile (ADDAC), to develop and certify the WheelTug system for the Airbus A320 family.
"We are in discussions over a number of different aircraft, including the A320, regional jets and military aircraft. By the beginning of 2009, we'll be able to launch the second aircraft type, but it is equally likely to be a regional jet as it would be to be an A320." says Cox.
He declines to comment if WheelTug is in talks with Delta to provide the system for its regional jet fleet.
Later this summer, WheelTug intends to begin offering delivery slots to other customers. At that point, specifications will be clear "so an airline will know exactly what they're getting", says Cox.
Source: flightglobal.com's sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news