Accessible innovation aims to “revolutionise” air travel for people with reduced mobility
A new product is aiming to “revolutionise” accessible air travel by enabling powered wheelchair users to remain in their own wheelchair for the entire journey.
Created by product design company PriestmanGoode, accessible air travel campaigner Flying Disabled, and certification body SWS Certification, the innovative Air 4 All system allows wheelchair users to travel in their own wheelchair on an aeroplane without reducing the seat count for airlines.
Both the airline seats and wheelchairs facilitate an installation and attachment system, enabling them to be securely installed in the aircraft cabin. Air 4 All is designed so that different powered wheelchair types can be certified for flying and will be able to interface with a wide range of airline seats. If no wheelchairs require access, the seats function as regular airline seats.
The system aims to enable people in powered wheelchairs to have equal access to a safe, comfortable and dignified air travel experience as every other passenger. It also looks to disrupt the accessible air travel sector by creating a new standard for disabled air travel.
The project further looks to drive practical improvements to the aeroplane cabin and transport experience for severely disabled people, resulting in greater independence, dignity and freedom of travel.
Paul Priestman, Chairman of PriestmanGoode, explained: “Air 4 All will usher in a step change in the industry and finally offer equal access to comfort, safety and dignity for all passengers.
“The biggest barrier in the past has been that giving greater space to passengers in wheelchairs would have reduced seat count and resulted in a loss of revenue for airlines. Air 4 All solves this problem and has the added benefit of enabling airlines to retain the design of their cabin on every seat, ensuring brand consistency and a cohesive brand experience for all passengers.
“Air 4 All will facilitate a smoother boarding and disembarking experience for PRMs and will also significantly reduce the number of wheelchairs that are damaged through poor handling.”
Air 4 All has been initially designed for a narrowbody 2+2 configuration. The system converts front row seats and install a wheelchair guidance and locking system to the aircraft, allowing for up to two wheelchairs per row to travel on a single flight.
The consortium will be working alongside mobility manufacturer Sunrise Medical to establish those powerchairs that would be fit to fly, as well as to retrofit and create new standards for powered wheelchairs, thus enabling passengers with the most challenging disabilities to travel.
Chris Wood MBE, Founder of Flying Disabled, added: “Air 4 All is the first system that has been developed jointly by a design agency, a certification body and with input from the disabled community.
“With a leading global wheelchair manufacturer as well as the subsidiary of a major airline on board to develop the product, it’s a truly collaborative project. We’re actively working with all the necessary parties, including initial discussions with some of the key National Aviation Authorities, to ensure our solution is harmonised and fit for purpose, thus significantly improving the travel experience for severely disabled passengers.”
A first prototype of the Air 4 All system is expected in December 2021.
The Air 4 All system is patented, which covers all types of wheelchairs across every mode of public transport. The consortium is looking for partners across the transport sector to develop the system for other modes of travel, such as in trains.
Earlier this year, Revolve Air was launched to transform disabled air travel. The modern-looking active wheelchair fits the standard cabin baggage dimensions used universally by airlines and promises to be lightweight, sturdy and safe for users.
It saves 60 percent of its space when both wheels and frames are folded and can be used as hand luggage on aeroplanes, without any additional struggle, according to the inventor, Andrea Mocellin.