Taxibot Demo Day

We’re wrapping up the quickest European trip we’ve ever made. Two days of travel for two days of business that still packed in plenty of activities.

Arrived at Charles DeGaulle Airport at 8:30 a.m., Sunday, and met up with Fadi Anbouba, vice president of sales and service for TLD America. Fadi outlined TLD’s global initiatives and discussed the reasons why his company invited the press to meet at Chateauroux Airport – a demonstration of TLD’s Taxibot, a towbarless tractor with the engineering prowess to not only push back a plane, but let the pilot essentially command the tractor and not so much be towed as drive the aircraft all the way to the foot of a runway without power from the aircraft’s engines.

But witnessing that feat wasn’t going to happen for another 24 hours. So that still gave us the rest of Sunday. We had time to kill and then some since the train that would take us to the Loire Valley wasn’t leaving for another six hours. Maybe not quite what you want to learn after a long, sleepless flight, but Fadi had me beat anyway coming all the way from California.

France being France, however, we drank a gallon of espresso a piece, ate a plate of chocolate croissants, and later had an opulent lunch that could only be had when you’re stuck in a French airport. I mean when’s the last time you saw steak tartar on the menu of an airport restaurant? Or eight cuts of steak?

Eventually, we found ourselves at the train station and took a two-hour ride to St Pierre des Corps where Philippe Tessier, site director, and his wife, Celine, who manages shipping and receiving, unlocked TLD’s Montlouis sur Loire factory at around 5:30 p.m.

One interesting fact: On certain afternoons, town authorities close down the road in front of the factory in order to test drive the some-250 tractors assembled each year.

From there, we met TLD executives and Taxibot partners from Lufthansa LEOS and the Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. for a 9 p.m. dinner at the Domaine de La Tortiniere, a chateau turned hotel and restaurant. At 7 a.m., Monday, more food and espresso before driving an hour to the airport for the big day.

I’m writing this on Monday night rather than the usual Tuesday morning since I’ll be heading back to ORD where I might finally get some sleep on Wednesday before, of course, more food and coffee this time on Thanksgiving. I’ll have more on the demo, including pictures, in next week’s blog. In the meantime, remember that “international” is out and “multidomestic” is in.