EasyJet will be the first airline to trial an electric taxiing system being developed by Honeywell and Safran.
The budget airline expects to start operational trials next year using the system, which is designed to reduce or completely eliminate the need for tugs to maneuver aircraft in and out of stands.
The savings could be significant: EasyJet says about four percent of its annual fuel use comes from taxiing, because of the high frequency of its short-haul flights. Its aircraft average 20 minutes of taxi time per flight – the equivalent of 3.5 million miles a year.
The world’s short-haul aircraft consume 5 million tons of fuel per year during taxi operations, according to Honeywell and Safran.
The companies’ system uses a plane’s auxiliary power unit to supply motors in aircraft wheels. Each wheel is equipped with an electromechanical actuator, while special power electronics and system controllers give pilots control of the aircraft’s speed, direction and braking during taxi operations.
Honeywell and Safran are planning to offer the electric green taxiing system either on new aircraft or as a retrofit solution to in-service aircraft, as early as 2016.
The trial will help establish how much fuel the system can save, and will also allow EasyJet to help establish standard operational procedures for aircraft equipped with the system.