Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has announced certification tests on its TaxiBot tow-tractor’s ability to manoeuvre Airbus 320neo airliners were completed successfully on December 8th, 2016.
The TaxiBot is a semi-robotic pilot-controlled vehicle for dispatch towing airliners from terminal gates to the runway and back, without using the aircraft’s own engines. TaxiBot started dispatch-towing commercial Lufthansa Boeing 737 (Classic) flights departing out of Frankfurt Airport in November 2014.
The A320 certification tests took place at Airbus’ facilities in Toulouse, France, where the tractor reached its maximum speed of 23 knots, performed multiple turns at different speeds and tight turns at low speed. An engine start of one and both engines of the A320neo during TaxiBotting was performed satisfactorily, as were other tests conducted by Airbus test pilots.
According to Robert Lafontan, Airbus Senior Vice President Engineering, the formal EASA approval for TaxiBot /A320 operations is expected at the beginning of 2017. Since 2008, IAI, together with its industrial risk-sharing partner TLD, has been cooperating with Lufthansa LEOS in the development of the TaxiBot, with support of both OEMs Airbus and Boeing. Lufthansa LEOS has integrated the TaxiBot project into its E-PORT-AN initiative, aimed at taking passenger aircraft towing and surface-traffic performance beyond the existing limits of environmental sustainability at Frankfurt Airport.
Ran Braier, Director of Civil Robotics at IAI commented: “The successful certification of the A320 is an important milestone for the TaxiBot programme. Adding the certification of the A320 family to the already certified B737 family covers 70% of all the worldwide commercial airlines flights, which could be provided with TaxiBot service. Certification will enable operation of this innovative system with major airline fleets in leading airports, revolutionising the commercial aviation industry, while saving millions of dollars in fuel costs, improving operations and contributing to the global environment.”