All Nippon Airways (ANA) has begun using a new piece of ground support equipment that it says will reduce workload, maintenance and fuel costs. The Mototok Spacer 8600, a high-tech, remote-controlled tug for hangar and pushback operations, recently made its debut at Kyushu Saga International Airport after a testing period that began in September 2018.
“ANA has earned its reputation for innovation by actively embracing the latest technological advancements, and the use of this tug is emblematic of our efforts to set the pace for integrating new technology into the airline industry,” says Shinichi Abe, executive vice president ANA.
In addition to its remote-control operation for maneuvering and loading the nose gear, the Spacer 8600 features a purely electric drive that can position up to 30 different aircraft without recharging. According to Mototok, the electric drive eliminates the many moving parts used in conventional diesel-powered or diesel-electric tugs, which reduces its maintenance. The company says all of the Spacer’s major parts are “plug and play”—located in one compartment and easy to exchange. Mototok also offers an online maintenance solution, which enables customers to check the Spacer’s technical details on a laptop and access remote service from one of the company’s technical centers.
According to ANA, the Spacer will increase pushback precision by providing the controller a wide-angled view and the ability to confirm an aircraft’s exact position at any time.
“Due to its very small dimensions and the omission of a tow bar, the radius of movement with the Mototok Spacer is enormous,” explains a representative for Mototok. “When parking, the return path of the tug does not have to be considered—it simply passes under the already parked aircraft.” The company says this allows an aircraft to be parked directly in front of a hangar wall or in a corner, which increases utilization of available space by up to 160% depending on the shape of a hangar and the type of aircraft used.
ANA plans to use the Spacer on Airbus A320, A321 and Boeing 737 aircraft, and says it is considering using the tug for larger aircraft types in the future. The carrier is hoping to fully implement the Spacer in its operations by 2020.
According to Mototok, the Spacer 8600 has mainly been used in the hangars of MROs and FBOs since its introduction in 2010 and it is also used by Airbus in the production line. Mototok also offers the Spacer 8600 as an automated guided vehicle (AGV), which can be driven precisely on a line into a hangar or a production dock and stops automatically on a barcode. The company says the AGV version can be provided to aircraft manufacturers and MROs with “very competitive prices” since it is based on Mototok’s serial machines.