June 20, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
Airliners might taxi to and from their gates using electric motors powered by the auxiliary power unit—essentially a small jet engine with a generator—in the tail of the aircraft. It could save airlines 4 percent of yearly fuel costs, a statement from Honeywell and French aerospace firm Safran said.
The two companies have joined to offer the systems for new aircraft, and retrofitted for older aircraft, starting in 2016. A joint statement notes it could save in fuel and exhaust emissions. It might also reduce noise levels, especially for airports surrounded by residential areas, although the statement made no promises regarding noise.
Honeywell will blend its expertise with auxiliary power units and generators with the landing gear experience of Safran. Electric motors would power the main landing gear. Pilots would use brakes as needed, and control the speed and direction of the aircraft the same as when using the main engines. Tugs would not be needed to push the aircraft back.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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