New IAI "taxibot" to save airlines billions

The taxibot tows planes from the passenger gate to the runway, so the planes needn't run their engines.

The Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) passenger jet towing vehicle, capable of handling even the largest planes in service, has successful completed a series of trials. The "taxibot" tows planes from passenger gate to the runway, rendering it unnecessary for the planes to operate their jet engines.

IAI estimates the cost of the taxibot at $3 million, and the company expects to sell 1,500 taxibots to airlines by 2020.

At many airports, the passenger gates are several miles from the runways, and the drive to the runway consumes huge quantities of jet fuel. For example, a Boeing 747 consumes a ton of jet fuel every 17 minutes.

"The good news about the taxibot is that a plane's crew does not have to use the engines to taxi from the passenger gate to the end of the runway," IAI taxibot project manager Ron Brayer told "Globes". "This is no small thing nowadays. Airlines will save billions of dollars on fuel. Plane safety will improve, because when the engines are off, the risk of sucking in items on the ground is reduced. In addition, noise at airports will lessen, and there will be fewer pollution emissions. In effect, the plane's crew will only have to operate the immense jet engines for less than five minutes before takeoff."

IAI says that the taxibot can tow the largest passenger jets now in service, including the Airbus 380 Superjumbo. Tests in recent months at airports in France and Germany proved that the taxibot can also tow the Boeing 747.

IAI VP business development Yehoshua Eldar said that the world's airlines spend $7-8 billion a year just on taxiing from the passenger gates to the runway. "This does not even include the spending of additional hundreds of thousands of dollars on repairing breakdowns caused by accumulated engine damage from the sucking of items into the engines," he said. He predicts that taxibot sales will begin in 2012.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 3, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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