Equipment manufacturers are working harder than ever to offer new product designs that provide something a little extra for GSE operators. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is vital to give customers real ‘value-add’, and this is what we see with the TUG™ ALPHA 1 narrowbody pushback… as GSE Textron’s vice president and general manager, Matt Chaffin, explains, in this first segment of our three-part Innovation in GSE series
When was the TUG ALPHA 1 first introduced to the market, and was it a complex process of design and development, given that it can be battery, diesel or gas-powered?
The TUG ALPHA 1 was launched in October as a unique addition to the narrowbody pushback category of products.
Designing the TUG ALPHA 1 with three powertrain options – lithium, gas and diesel – and the ability to upgrade internal combustion models to lithium in the future was a big priority for the Textron GSE engineering team. The team had to consider all components within the development process to ensure we met the performance criteria customers required, while offering a versatile platform that could accept lithium technology in the future in a more cost-effective customer solution.
Additionally, the TUG ALPHA 1 was purpose built to incorporate standard functionality not found with other models. The design encompasses many features specifically focused on safety including a unique centre-drive design, superior tow-bar visibility that enables the driver to see the hitch without standing or the use of mirrors, ground maintenance access points, integrated footholds, handrails and flat landing platforms and a hitch pin sensor that disables pushback mode if it is not properly secured to the aircraft.
Every inch of the TUG ALPHA 1 was developed with performance, safety and cost of ownership in mind. Plus the TUG ALPHA 1 also offers parts commonality across the TUG ALPHA product line, and a wide range of additional options, including an on-board charger for the lithium model which is J1772 compliant [J1772 is a North American standard for electrical connectors].
The gas-powered design is clearly unique. Can you tell us more about it?
The gas powertrain provides an option for customers to avoid the complexities of diesel after-treatment systems, while still providing the torque, power and run-time of a conventional diesel-powered product.
Obviously, electric products are gaining traction because of their eco-friendly benefits, but infrastructure is still evolving, which makes gas products a better solution over diesel. Textron GSE is proud to launch a product that is a first of its kind for customers.
And with regard to the lithium variant, is this lithium-ion? Is it an off-the-shelf battery pack, or a battery design you have developed yourselves?
The battery pack was specifically developed for the TUG ALPHA 1, which delivers consistent performance over the product life cycle with a battery that does not significantly degrade over time like lead-acid technology, can be opportunity charged without damaging battery performance and charges twice as fast, increasing productivity.
Also, the TUG ALPHA 1 is equipped with a built-in battery management system (BMS) that monitors the health and performance of the battery, utilising a telemetry system, for increased safety.
Flexibility seems to be a key element of the TUG ALPHA 1; has that been well received in the market?
The TUG ALPHA 1 was engineered for global use specifically for narrowbody aircraft and features a maximum drawbar of 24,000 pounds (10,886kg, or nearly 11 tonnes).
Powertrain options include lithium as well as Tier 3, Tier 4F and Stage V engines. All models are CE certified, designed to meet or exceed SAE and IATA specifications.
The TUG ALPHA 1 is engineered to support aircraft up to the A321 or 737 MAX in both pushback operations as well as intermittent maintenance tows.
Textron GSE has received strong interest for the TUG ALPHA 1, especially as customers ramp up operations to meet travel and cargo demands. The lithium model is receiving a lot of attention, due to its eco-friendly footprint, design and safety benefits.
In fact, there are several demonstration units currently with customers and the feedback has been very positive. Textron GSE anticipates a strong back half of the year in sales.