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November 2005 edition

Boeing and Chorus Motors doing groundwork for onboard electric motors

By Daniel Cook

Boeing’s research and development unit, Phantom Works, has begun work on a collaborative project to develop a new breed of electric motors to move aircraft on the ground.

Boeing began the project with Chorus Motors a year ago as part of a continuing bid to reduce the industry’s ever-increasing fuel bills.

Chorus Motors’ WheelTug unit came up with a motor powerful enough, and small enough, to one day fit within the nose landing gear of an airliner.

If the development is successful, airliners will be able to taxi quietly around the tarmac, their engines silent, until they are ready for take off. It could also reduce the number of ground tugs used at airports, making for faster turnarounds. Chorus claims it could save airlines up to $6 million per aircraft over the 15-year life span of each motor.

However, with only the first stage of proof-of-concept testing completed, for now this lean and undoubtedly green innovation is in its infancy. But if Boeing and Chorus eventually triumph, aircraft manufacturers could be making way for the WheelTug in the airframe, as they do for avionics and other integrated systems.

The concept was tested in June 2005, when a Phantom Works/Chorus Motors team installed an electric motor on an Air Canada 767 and conducted a series of successful tests. Air Canada pilots performed ground manoeuvres on slopes and terrains typical of those at airports around the world.

Tests were performed at ramp temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit and at load....

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