Technology & Science

Motorised nose wheels will let planes leave gates by themselves

THE frustrations of air travel are many and varied: enduring the scrum to board; rummaging for room in the overhead lockers; waiting patiently for “the last two remaining passengers” to be extracted from the shops. After all that, those on the aircraft often find that it has failed to push back from the gate in time to meet its take-off slot. Because, under their own power, planes can only go forward, they rely on a tug when reversing from a gate. If such is not available, has lost its driver or has broken down, at the gate the plane must stay.

This may soon change, though. WheelTug, a company in Gibraltar, has spent over a decade developing electric motors to drive an aircraft’s nose wheel. This month it employed Stirling Dynamics, an engineering firm in Bristol, England, to help prepare the device for certification by air-safety authorities. It has tested a prototype and hopes its motorised wheels will be available in 2019 for fitting onto versions of the Boeing 737, and later…Continue reading

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