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​FARNBOROUGH: Honeywell and Safran halt electric taxi project

Honeywell and Safran have pulled the plug on their jointly conceived electric taxiing system, while rival developer WheelTug aims to enter service with its system in 2018.

At the Paris air show in 2013, Honeywell and Safran demonstrated an initial version of their main landing gear-mounted Electric Green Taxiing System on an Airbus A320 as part of the daily flying display. However, a source familiar with the programme tells FlightGlobal that the narrowbody has since been decommissioned.

Honeywell confirms that it has terminated its joint venture with Safran. "After thorough market analysis", the US supplier says, the two partners "agreed to stop work on the Electric Green Taxiing System due to dramatically lower oil prices and the current aviation industry's economic environment".

However, the manufacturer insists that the joint venture was "highly successful" in terms of the system development and "gaining widespread customer interest". Several airlines – including Air France, EasyJet and Mexican carrier Interjet – supported the programme, and Airbus endorsed the EGTS effort.

Honeywell suggests that system design had been completed and that Safran "will continue work on innovative taxiing system projects". The two partners are also interested in collaborating on other projects, Honeywell indicates.

EGTS had been scheduled to enter service this year, with Honeywell and Safran having planned to produce a system for line- and retrofit on A320-family and Boeing 737 jets.

In 2013, L-3 Communications canned a similar electric taxiing system that was to be mounted on the main landing gear of the two narrowbody families. Together with Lufthansa Technik and other partners, L-3 trialled a non-flyable demonstrator system on an A320 at Frankfurt airport in 2011.

The following year, L-3 partnered Crane Aerospace for the proposed eTaxi system's development. But, citing high investment costs, L-3 terminated the effort in 2013.

Meanwhile, Gibraltar-headquartered WheelTug plans to enter service with its nose gear-mounted electric drive system in 2018. Its chief executive Isaiah Cox has told FlightGlobal at Farnborough air show that plans for a certification programme have been submitted to the US Federal Aviation Administration. Once these have been approved, Cox says, it will take two years for the system to enter service initially on 737s and, at a later stage, on A320-family types.

Neither Airbus nor Boeing are supporting the programme while there is concern that the nose gear drive system might not have sufficient traction in adverse conditions, such on icy or sloped surfaces. But Cox argues the most significant savings would be gained through optimised parking and boarding procedures at terminal gates rather than taxiing without using the main engines.

He says aircraft could park parallel to airport buildings – rather than in a conventional nose-in position – and thus use two airport bridges for boarding through the aircraft's front and rear doors. The required turn manoeuvre – which, Cox says, could be adopted on regular terminal stands for widebodies – would not be possible under standard taxi operations as the engines' jet blast will be directed to neighbouring stands.

Cox reveals that Air Transat has agreed to conduct certification tests for the WheelTug system on its aircraft. The Canadian carrier has seven 737-800s in addition to a widebody fleet comprising A330s and A310s, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

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