WheelTug seeks electric wheel drive certification in 2011

Washington DC
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Chorus Motors subsidiary WheelTug intends to conduct ground testing of its electric wheel drive on a Boeing Next Generation 737 after having successfully completed an electrical load measurement development test as the company aims to achieve Federal Aviation Administration certification for the aircraft ground manoeuvring tool for the 737NG in 2011.

Ground testing has not been scheduled and is contingent upon aircraft availability, WheelTug vice-president of business development Phil Moylan says. Moylan adds that ground testing may not necessarily be conducted with an aircraft from US launch customer Delta Air Lines: "We have other interested airlines."

The aircraft drive system is designed around twin high-torque Chorus motors integrated with the aircraft's two nosewheels. It enables aircraft to back away from gates without using a tow tug and to taxi to and from runways without using the engines. Instead, the tool uses power from the aircraft on-board auxiliary power unit.

WheelTug says the electrical load measurement development test completed in January in Atlanta using a Delta 737-800NG demonstrated that sufficient power is available from the APU to operate a fully loaded WheelTug-equipped 737-800NG to taxi at normal speeds.

While WheelTug previously said it intended to achieve FAA certification for its electric wheel drive for the 737NG by the end of 2009, Moylan says the company has revised its certification goal to 2011 as it looks for outside investors. He says it is a "poor time" to look for investments.