The Boeing 737 has been officially certified for TaxiBot® dispatch towing. The Supplement Type Certificate (STC) was issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI).
TaxiBot, a semi-robotic pilot-controlled vehicle, is designed to transport airline aircraft from terminal gates to the runway and back, without using the airplane’s own engines (dispatch towing). TaxiBot’s in-service evaluation is expected to start next month, with regular commercial Lufthansa Boeing 737 flights departing out of Frankfurt Airport.
Since 2008 IAI, along with its industrial risk-sharing partner TLD, has been cooperating with Lufthansa LEOS in the development of the TaxiBot, with the support of both OEMs Airbus and Boeing. Lufthansa LEOS has integrated the TaxiBot project into its “E-PORT-AN” initiative, aimed at taking passenger airplane towing and surface traffic performance beyond the existing limits of environmental sustainability at Frankfurt Airport.
Leading airlines, ground-handling companies, airports and leasing companies around the world have shown considerable interest in TaxiBot. Several working groups are actively studying and preparing to introduce TaxiBot in some of the world’s leading airport hubs, in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Airbus NTO (No Technical Objection) approval is expected to be issued soon for TaxiBot operational tests in Frankfurt. This will allow TaxiBot to dispatch Airbus A320s before takeoff. The Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 airplane families comprise over seventy percent of the world’s mainliner airplanes, hence the potential market is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The return on investment for airlines is less than two years. Advanced negotiations are progressing with several potential customers.