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An electrically powered A320 maneuvers at Le Bourget with engine, An electrically powered A320 maneuvers at Le Bourget with engine covers on and no tell-tale shimmer of exhaust. Credit: Eric Drovin/Safran

Saving Taxi & Pulling Power

Operators of narrowbodies and large regional jets may soon have a much more fuel-efficient, economic and environmentally-friendly method of pulling jets into and out of hangars, as well as moving them around tarmacs.

Operators of narrowbodies and large regional jets may soon have a much more fuel-efficient, economic and environmentally-friendly method of pulling jets into and out of hangars, as well as moving them around tarmacs. In early July, Safran Landing Systems signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a subsidiary of China Aviation Supplies Holding Company to promote electric taxiing solutions in China. Safran is developing an electric taxiing system that uses APU power to move airplanes without using main engines or tractors, and it could be used well beyond China.

And the project is well advanced. According to Sylvain Torregrosa, Electric Taxiing sales and marketing manager, the Safran solution is now progressing toward Technology Readiness Level 6. “We are demonstrating the performances of the system under representative environmental conditions,” Torregrosa explains. “This will be the final step of maturity before program launch.”

Safran is working with Airbus at present. And it will launch the system for single-aisle, narrowbody commercial aircraft that operate in high-cycle, short and medium-range, large, congested airports, where usage of electric taxiing will deliver maximum return on investment.

No airlines have signed up yet, but many are showing interest. Safran believes there will be a market over the next 15 years in single-aisle and large regional aircraft with capacity of 90 or more passengers. And the OEM sees potential for both forward-fits and retrofits.

Torregrosa says Safran’s electric taxiing will be better than rival offers for several reasons. First, “it draws upon Safran’s experience of electric power systems and landing gear systems expertise.” Safran’s technology is more mature, and it takes into account aircraft design by powering the main landing gear, not the forward landing gear.

Further, the new system is designed for a full taxi environment, whatever are the runway materials, slopes, weather conditions or speeds required. The Safran marketer argues the system is the only one that maximizes savings from pushbacks, time savings and fuel savings for short-range aircraft. Additional benefits may include improved on time performance, autonomous gate and hangar relocations and reduction in towing incidents and damage to main engines.

Torregrosa cites a report by Envisa, an independent environmental consultant, that estimates electric taxiing can reduce NOx emissions by up to 51%, CO emissions by up to 73% and CO2 by up to 61%, compared with conventional taxiing. “At this stage we estimate net fuel savings alone could be as high as 4% per flight, not including savings from removal of ground tugs.”

All but one very old version of A320-family main landing gear can be equipped with Safran’s electric taxiing. All APUs on the A320 family are compatible with and sized to power the system.

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