This Wheel Allows the Boeing 737 to Drive Itself

December 12, 2017

 File photo of a prototype of the self-driving wheel. Image courtesy of Stirling Dynamics. 


For those of you who've been on a commercial flight, you're probably familiar with the pushback truck, which connects to the aircraft and literally pushes it back from the gate into a position where it can start its engines and taxi to the runway. However, in recent years, the amount of wait time that passengers have to experience after boarding has increased, due to the increasing travel demand across the world. The lack of pushback trucks to push the planes onto the taxiway have certainly frustrated many, and some airlines that operated the Douglas DC-9 derivatives have even opted to use the reverse thrust on their aircraft to push the aircraft back, a fairly unsafe practice. 


We have some interesting news for travelers. Stirling Dynamics has just announced that it will partner with WheelTug to develop a unique nose wheel for the Boeing 737 aircraft. This wheel will contain motors powered by the aircraft's own Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), and will allow the aircraft to back away from the gate under its own power. According to New Atlas, 98% of all pushbacks can take up to 13 minutes, which is not only frustrating to passengers, but to the airline as well, because this is valuable time that could be used to make money for the airline. 


WheelTug's new self-driving wheel aims to cut the entire process down to just one minute. By simplifying pushback operations greatly, it aims to "save a minimum of seven minutes per flight." This new contract will allow Stirling to develop and certify the wheel, while the WheelTug technology will be incorporated for Boeing. 


In an official statement, Stirling's Aerospace Business Manager Bandula Pathinayake said, "We are proud to work on this innovative technology with the WheelTug team, this new contract is another step forward in seeing this innovative technology reaching the marketplace." 


What do you make of this innovative technology? 

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