Inch by inch, my US Air Shuttle followed a conga line of 25 planes at Laguardia Saturday — for an hour — the cabin air scented with jet exhaust, as we waited our turn to take off for the 34-minute flight to Boston.

And inch by inch, WheelTug seems to become more real:

WheelTug names Scott Perkins as Chief Engineer

Gibraltar, 28 Oct 2013 – WheelTug plc has named Scott Perkins to be its Chief Engineer. Mr. Perkins is a strong leader with over 25 years aerospace experience and an excellent history in engineering, analysis and certification of aerospace components. Mr. Perkins’ accomplishments to date include establishing Messier-Dowty (USA) where he led the technical development of the Boeing 787 landing gear.  His experience on numerous commercial aircraft projects will be a major benefit in the development of the WheelTug system.

Scott Perkins’ existing team at Endeavor Analysis will continue to be involved with the WheelTug project. Endeavor has numerous superb engineers and managers at its disposal and are leaders in structural analysis.

Isaiah Cox, CEO of WheelTug, notes “Mr. Perkins brings more than 2 decades of landing gear experience to WheelTug and has an excellent track record of delivering on technical projects. His involvement to date has added tremendous value and we look forward to continuing down our technical development with him at the helm of that effort.”

Mr. Perkins adds, “There are very few opportunities to impact the air transport industry as fundamentally as WheelTug is capable of doing. The results of this engineering effort will transform the industry and it is exciting to play a fundamental role is its development.”

It’s not clear to me exactly what additional work needs to be done — we’ve seen video of the thing working in the nose wheel of a 737.  But the more talent and  credibility, the better.

Meanwhile, the New York Times had this story last week on an improvement to winglets.  One theme: the enormous importance airlines place on small boosts in efficiency.  To me, that bodes well for WheelTug, which should boost efficiency.  As does the fact that virtually all planes have winglets now — even though the large aircraft manufacturers resisted them for a great long time.

And here is an extensive article in Aircraft Technology Engineering & Maintenance — look, WheelTug is on the cover! — that begins (on page 32):

Throughout the history of technological development, small companies have often proved more adept at translating it new ideas quickly into workable technologies than have long-established industry giants.  Apple and Microsoft, long industry giants themselves, started as two tiny outfits taking on the behemoths of their business (IBM being one) and winning hands down. Facebook and Google are two more recent examples.

Now something similar maybe about to happen in the commercial aviation business. Until a few years ago, the airline industry didn’t really believe that a better, cheaper, quieter way could be found to get aircraft to and from runways than by having aircraft taxi for miles under the power of their engines.

As long as fuel was cheap, labour costs weren’t high and environmental concerns weren’t prominent in airline thinking, taxiing using engine power remained an acceptable procedure.  And as long as airlines didn’t mind taxiing aircraft standing still for minutes while other aircraft backed out ahead and blocked the taxiway as they started their engines, pushing back from the gate with the help of a diesel or electric tug remained standard practice. . . .

But the times seem to be changing.

BOREF fell back to $16 yesterday and may fall further (yay! it’s on sale!); but for those who bought for the right speculative reason, that doesn’t much matter.  The right speculative reason, it seems to me, is that WheelTug may one day pan out and generate enormous profits, at which point it won’t much matter whether you paid $12 or $16 or $22 for your shares.  Or it may not work out — something may go wrong — and, well, that’s why it’s a speculation, to be bought only with money you can truly afford to lose.  At $16 a share, Borealis has a market cap of about one-third that lovely Cezanne.  But I see no potential for that painting to throw off $100 million a year in earnings, let alone more.



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