After Vistara’s RADA, it is time for the Taxibots at New Delhi airport. Israel Aerospace Industry and TLD group have tied up with KSU Aviation Pvt. Ltd. to bring TLD’s TaxiBot to India.
TaxiBot completed certification trials in July 2014 and got certified the same year. The first commercial flight to be taxied by the TaxiBot was LH140 on November 14, 2014. Since then TaxiBots have been used to successfully to taxi more than 350 commercial flights at Frankfurt airport by Lufthansa.
So what is a TaxiBot?
TaxiBot (Taxiing Robot) is a semi-autonomous tow vehicle. It is a third generation tug vehicle, with the first two being Towbar Tug and Towbarless Tug. The TaxiBot attaches to the aircraft at the gate. The pilots manoeuvre the TaxiBot from the cockpit. The pilot uses a tiller for turning and MLG (Main Landing Gear) for braking.
It will tow the aircraft near the take-off position. Here it will detach from the plane and return. Here, the pilots fire up the engines for warm-up and checks.
It is similar to taking an aircraft to the runway, but in this case, a TaxiBot will provide the acceleration and not the aircraft engines.
This will help save up to 85% fuel used for the taxi as engines are only switched on at the runway. Multiply this with the number of flights operating out of a busy airport like New Delhi (1200+ flights daily) and Mumbai (900+ flights daily) in this case, and you are talking significant numbers.
Not all flights will use the TaxiBot. But still, it will ensure huge savings. It will also minimise runway intrusions. Remote control and monitoring from a central command centre are also possible in case of Taxibot. A person will be present in the TaxiBot to bring it back from the runway to the gate and also in case anything goes sideways.
2 TaxiBots are already operational at New Delhi airport. SG 8171 (VT-SGJ) from New Delhi to Goa on Monday was the first flight to use a Tax-Bot from Terminal 2 to the runway. On a side note, the flight departed 49 minutes late.
40 TaxiBots are slated to be operational at Indian airports in 4 years. Mumbai airport is next in line after New Delhi airport with Bengaluru airport to follow.
When all TaxiBots are operational, it is projected that they will bring about a saving of INR 10,000 crore to Indian airlines over a period. That’s a considerable figure.
Spot the TaxiBot on your next flight from New Delhi.
Isn’t towing slower than taxiing?
“Here, the pilots fire up the engines for warm-up and checks.”
What worries me is the above statement. The mind works in beautiful ways and if a Captain is not conscious of the fact that the checks are not performed, he / she will associate being on the runway as a green signal.
I maybe highly pessimistic but there is a chance of this happening (like the 6E flight on IXC-HYD)