Iberia Joins British Airways With Driverless Pushback Tugs

Iberia has begun to use driverless robots to push back its Airbus A320 family aircraft at Madrid and Barcelona airports. The tractors are the same type used by British Airways at its London Heathrow Terminal 5 home.

Iberia, Motok Spacer 8600, Pushback
Iberia has purchased eight Mototok devices to push back its A320 family aircraft at two airports. Photo: Iberia

The moments before departure can be a challenging time for airlines. Typically a large, powerful tug is required to attach to the aircraft’s nosegear. This takes time to set up and then uncouple and also requires a tug driver and a tug that produces CO2 while pushing back an aircraft. While WheelTug is looking to build pushback capability into small aircraft, IAG is taking a different approach.

Iberia opts for Mototok

Iberia will begin to use the Mototok green pushback tractor to push A320 family aircraft out of the gate and onto the taxiway, in addition to moving aircraft around hangars. The airline has acquired eight vehicles that will begin to move aircraft in Barcelona and Madrid from the end of the month.

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The Mototok Spacer 8600 is being used by Iberia, the same as sister airline British Airways operates. This is a relatively small device that, unlike traditional tugs, has no driver sitting inside. Instead, an operator controls the pushback device via radio control from a handheld remote.

Iberia, Motok Spacer 8600, Madrid
The operator controls the tractor with remote control. Photo: British Airways

The pushback device is powered by 80-volt batteries and can push back 28 aircraft before being charged again. Of course, a battery-powered device is not directly emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. As such, Iberia believes that such devices will cut its CO2 emissions by as much as 23 tonnes per year.

Not the only IAG airline using the device

Iberia is a member of the International Airlines Group. However, it is not the only airline in the group using the Mototok pushback device. Indeed, British Airways first deployed the technology at London Heathrow three years ago in September 2017. The British flag carrier was the first commercial operator of the devices.

If British Airways is anything to go by, these devices will be well used by sister airline Iberia. Indeed, in the first two years that it operated the machines, British Airways completed 100,000 aircraft pushback. At the time of the accomplishment last August, the airline was still the only one using the Mototok Spacer 8,600.

Iberia, Motok Spacer 8600, Madrid
British Airways completed its 100,000th push back with the device just over a year ago. Photo: British Airways

At the time, Mandeep Johal, who pushed back the 100,000th flight out to the taxiway, said,

“One of the best parts of my job is getting to use these new tugs and it still amazes me that this machine can push back an aircraft so easily and smoothly… I take my role very seriously, but I still get excited every time I get my hands on the remote control.”

Have you been on a flight that was pushed back by a Mototok? How was it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!