Disability activists and certain aircraft cabin design experts have long been committed to leading industry change by keeping electric wheelchair users in their mobile devices throughout their journey, including onboard. Now, some of the major voices in the field—PriestmanGoode and Flying Disabled—and SWS Certification, an EASA-approved design organization, have launched Air 4 All, a system that can do this without reducing the number of seats in airlines.
The consortium stated that the patented Air 4 All system is designed to be compatible with various types of airline seats and electric wheelchairs. The consortium "is currently working with a subsidiary of a major airline to bring the product to the market." The following is the working principle of Air 4 All:
Over the years, PriestmanGoode has been committed to improving barrier-free facilities for disabled passengers. It previously developed the Air Access integrated wheelchair aircraft seat concept for the 2012 Paralympic Games.
But this new Air 4 All system from London design companies Flying Disabled and SWS Certification has changed the pointer significantly. Its disclosure was only six weeks after the release of the research report on the feasibility of bringing in-flight wheelchair restraint systems on airplanes and whether these restraint systems can accommodate wheelchair users, authorized by the US Congress.
The report was issued by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a division of the National Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Engineering, and the School of Medicine, composed of experts from aircraft seats, aviation, and academia. They found:
Passengers with disabilities encounter many difficulties when traveling by air, including the risk of damage to expensive customized mobile devices, travel delays, and personal well-being and dignity issues.
"The entire process-from having to wait for assistance to being handled by strangers in person-may lose dignity in a way that cannot be compared to the experience of other modes of transportation when a wheelchair fixation system is available," said the authors of the TRB report.
This disconnect between ground transportation and air transportation is a key point. In 1986, Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to ensure that persons with disabilities receive consistent and non-discriminatory treatment when traveling by air.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. It was enacted in 1990, but the airline industry lags far behind other transportation providers in providing adequate wheelchair accommodation.
For example, during that time period, the aviation industry made significant progress in other arguably more complex technical areas, including the development of composite airframes, the launch of the Airbus A380 ultra-large aircraft, and the introduction of in-flight connections. Seat dynamics and interior trim have also been improved, and a lightweight and optimized seat has been developed that can meet the FAA's strict 16g crash test requirements.
In addition, the industry has found space for lying-flat chairs and suites that are almost ubiquitous, where there used to be only recliner space.
The findings of the TRB report show that the most important thing is that the problem with the wheelchair in the cabin is not feasibility, but determination.
It’s worth noting that although TRB researchers suggest that airlines need to remove two consecutive rows of seats near the boarding gate to accommodate wheelchairs, the new Air 4 All system actually allows users to travel on commercial aircraft in their own wheelchairs. Will not reduce the number of seats in the airline.
This is because Air 4 All was originally designed to convert the two front seats into a narrow-body aircraft by installing a wheelchair guidance and locking system, in the form of 2-2. The system allows up to two wheelchairs per row to be used in a single pass. Driving in flight.
The consortium will work with Sunrise Medical, headquartered in the UK, to develop electric wheelchairs suitable for flying, as well as to modify electric wheelchairs and set new standards.
“Air 4 All works similarly to the ISOFIX/LATCH standards in passenger cars. Both aircraft seats and wheelchairs help to install and connect the system so that they can be safely installed in the cabin,” the team explained.
"The system is designed so that different types of electric wheelchairs can pass flight certification and can be connected to seats of various airlines. If there is no wheelchair to enter, these seats can be used as ordinary airline seats."
The first prototype of the Air 4 All system is expected to be launched in December 2021. "There is a leading global wheelchair manufacturer and a subsidiary of a major airline involved in the development of this product. This is a real collaborative project," said founder Chris Wood.
"We are actively cooperating with all necessary parties, including preliminary discussions with some major national aviation authorities, to ensure that our solutions are coordinated and fit for purpose, thereby significantly improving the travel experience of severely disabled passengers."
There are still some questions that need to be answered, and certification barriers need to be overcome. But these are not insurmountable. For example, All Wheels Up, which has been working to certify wheelchair fasteners on airplanes, determined that Q'Straint's existing wheelchair restraints for accessible cars and buses may exceed the FAA's 16gs requirement.
The release of Air 4 All coincides with the 35th anniversary of ACAA. However, generations of travelers are still waiting to visit.
The aviation industry has encountered and solved greater technical and logistical challenges in the past. Installing a wheelchair restraint system on board is not rocket science, but even so, we know how to do it.
All pictures are credited to PriestmanGoode
Special editor Marisa Garcia has been in the aviation industry since 1994, first engaged in the manufacture of aircraft interiors and cabin safety equipment, and in 2013 she launched her own website FlightChic.com to write articles about the industry. She is a freelance writer for leading publications in the aviation and travel industries, including "Aircraft Interiors International Magazine",... Read more