The National Academies

ACRP 02-50 [Completed]

Deriving Benefits from Alternative Aircraft-Taxi Systems

  Project Data
Funds: $325,518
Research Agency: The Cadmus Group, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Damon Fordham
Effective Date: 7/15/2014
Completion Date: 4/30/2016


As demand for air travel continues to grow, airports are facing increased pressure to reduce their contribution to local air emissions and noise. Moreover, as the price of fuel increases, aircraft operators are driven to consider operational alternatives that reduce fuel consumption cost. By removing the need for aircraft main-engines during the majority of the taxi phase of operation in aircraft movement areas, there may be an overall net benefit for both the airport and aircraft operator. Recently, non-main-engine aircraft-taxi (alternative aircraft-taxi) systems have attracted interest by industry and government research organizations including, among other alternative systems, an electric motor permanently fixed to the aircraft, or an electric tug. While many of these alternatives may provide energy and environmental benefits, their use may introduce potential challenges to aircraft operators, air traffic control, and new demands upon airport infrastructure. Research is needed to develop a comprehensive list of existing and near-term alternative aircraft-taxi systems and evaluate the potential net cost, energy, and environmental benefits of these systems through the consideration of fuel burn, emissions, and noise effects, and to consider the potential future challenges of implementing this technology for aircraft and airport infrastructure.


The objective of this research is to develop a resource guide for airport practitioners in three sections that includes: (1) Section 1–an introduction to existing and near-term alternative aircraft-taxi systems; (2) Section 2–a compendium of defensible benefits, impacts, and considerations related to each system; and (3) Section 3–a summary and vision to maximize future potential of these systems given anticipated advances in technology, equipage, and infrastructure. The resource guide should be written in terms and context that are relevant, familiar, and understandable to airport operators.
The resource guide shall list the considerations related to each existing and near-term alternative aircraft-taxi system including various criteria essential to each system that may be used in making selection decisions for a change of practice. Each benefit, impact, or consideration should use a rational, defensible approach and parameters to accurately quantify the cost, energy, and environmental benefits of these systems and compare them to the standard practice of using aircraft main-engines for aircraft-taxi. The resource guide should also address common issues related to alternative aircraft-taxi systems, including but not limited to:
  • Available options for using existing and near-term technology/equipment and an evaluation of the pros/cons for airports’ understanding.
  • Correlation of any known benefits, impacts, and considerations with existing and near-term alternative aircraft-taxi systems to airport operator, aircraft operator, and ground service provider operations.
  • Tradeoffs that should be considered and how airports should discuss these systems with aircraft operators and ground service providers.
  • Explanations of existing and near-term technology, lessons learned, cost implications, and changes to practice for these systems.
  • Operational considerations and infrastructure requirements that are necessary for these systems, relating their cost/benefit to the airport, aircraft operator, and ground service providers.
  • Descriptions of each system demonstrating various stakeholder issues and financial implications to aircraft operators and ground service providers such that airports understand their perspective.
  • The airport’s role and lessons learned, using case studies as a prelude to discussing the options with aircraft operators and ground service providers.
  • Approaches to assist any stakeholder in its decision to implement these systems or approve implementation by others, and the evaluation criteria that may inform the selection of a particular system.
  • Airport development projects that would maximize benefits from the systems identified in the resource guide.
  • Future technology implications and research/development needs for using alternative aircraft-taxi systems for ground taxi in aircraft movement areas.
  • Gaps in current knowledge, practice, or technology that, given further research may offer additional alternatives for possible future consideration.
STATUS: This project has been published as ACRP Report 158, Deriving Benefits from Alternative Aircraft-Taxi Systems and is available for download from the TRB website.

The report's ATAM Tool is available for download here.

To create a link to this page, use this URL: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=3696