While many of us are craving new surroundings and landscapes, most would probably like to skip over the part where we are confined to the cramped space of an airline seat for hours and hours. That said, having a seat on an airplane that can adequately accommodate us is a privilege that not everyone is afforded.
Chris Wood, the founder of Flying Disabled, has been campaigning for accessibility in aviation since 2015, and thanks to industrial design studio PriestmanGoode, an inclusive airplane seating system that allows for powered wheelchair users to comfortably remain in their own wheelchairs for the duration of the journey is now being refined into a prototype.
The system, which is called Air 4 All, was developed through a collaboration by Flying Disabled, PriestmanGoode, and aircraft safety company SWS Certification and is designed for commercial flights.
One of the main obstacles in providing wheelchair users equal access to safe and dignified air travel is the loss of revenue of airlines who will have to reduce their seat count to accommodate the space needed for wheelchairs. However, “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,” says PriestmanGoode chairman Paul Priestman.
The system is able to do this because it is designed to look like a standard airline seat, but if there is a need to make room for a wheelchair, the bottom of the seat flips up and exposes a guide track to help position the wheelchair. An attachment system is in place to fix the seat securely and safely as well. Otherwise, the seat functions as a traditional airline seat would.
“Air 4 All will facilitate a smoother boarding and disembarking experience for PRMs [passengers with reduced mobility] and will also significantly reduce the number of wheelchairs that are damaged through poor handling,” Priestman continues.
In order for this system to work, both the airline seats and wheelchairs will have to be fitted with the consortium’s patented installation and attachment system, which will work similarly to the Isofix/LATCH standards for child car seats that can be installed in a variety of vehicles.
That’s why the team has involved another partner in the project, wheelchair manufacturer Sunrise Medical, which will be in charge of creating powered wheelchairs that are fit to fly, as well as retrofitting older models that are currently incompatible. The goal is for the system to eventually become available to all airlines and wheelchair manufacturers.
“In the same way that child seats for cars can be made by many different manufacturers and used on any type of car, our aim for Air 4 All is that it’s universal,” Priestman said in an interview with Dezeen.
“At PriestmanGoode we design many trains, trams, and buses, and for all these modes of transport there are strict requirements to provide positions to allow people to travel on board whilst seated in a wheelchair.”
The fact that the same provisions aren’t required of aircraft is “wrong,” says Priestman, adding that he believes “the Air 4 All system has provided a solution that will at last correct this and allow wheelchair users to travel as they should like everybody else.”
The prototype, which is designed for a narrow-body aircraft with two rows of two seats, is expected to be ready in December of this year.
Source image: PriestmanGoode