OREANDA-NEWS. Until now, airplanes have had to use their own turbines to cover this stretch. However, this is very uneconomical, as taxiing consumes up to one metric ton of fuel, depending on the airplane’s size and the distance covered. It is much more efficient to use a diesel-electric towing tractor that attaches itself to the nose wheel and pulls the airplane to the runway. As a result, an aircraft doesn’t have to turn on its engines until after it arrives at the runway.

After conducting extensive tests, Lufthansa now regularly uses such taxiing robots or TaxiBots at Frankfurt International Airport. According to the airline, the tractors enable it to save around 11,000 metric tons of fuel each year at Frankfurt Airport alone. TaxiBots are the result of a joint project between Siemens, the French TLD Group, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Lufthansa LEOS.

TaxiBots not only cut fuel consumption and emissions, they also reduce the strain on aircraft engines, thus extending their maintenance intervals. In addition, they aren’t as noisy as jet turbines. Current TaxiBots tow narrow-body (i.e. single-aisle) airliners such as the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. These tractors create only half as much noise as a taxiing airplane. Including its own energy consumption, a Narrow-Body TaxiBot can save up to 150 kilograms of fuel on each taxiing mission. Trials with Wide-Body TaxiBots for airliners with two aisles, such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-400, are scheduled to begin soon at Chateauroux Airport in France. One such TaxiBot can save up to one metric ton of fuel when it tows a wide-body jet, which can weigh up to 600 metric tons.