PriestmanGoode unveils innovation to improve accessible air travel for disabled passengers
PriestmanGoode has unveiled Air 4 All, a system that aims to revolutionise air travel for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) by enabling powered wheelchair users to remain in their own wheelchair for the entire journey.
PriestmanGoode partnered with SWS Certification and Flying Disabled to create the design, which allows wheelchair users to travel in their own wheelchair on board a commercial aircraft without reducing the seat count for airlines.
According to the consortium, Air 4 All works in a similar way to ISOFIX /LATCH standards in passenger cars. Both the airline seats and wheelchairs facilitate an installation and attachment system, enabling them to be securely installed in the aircraft cabin.
The system 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.
Paul Priestman, designer and Chairman of PriestmanGoode, commented: “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.”
A spokesperson for the consortium stated that the objectives of the project are to create a new standard for the provision of accessible air travel, enabling people in powered wheelchairs to have equal access to a safe, comfortable and dignified air travel experience as every other passenger.
It is also hoping to drive practical improvements to the aircraft cabin and overall aviation transport experience for severely disabled people.
Initially designed for a narrowbody 2+2 configuration, the Air 4 All system is designed to convert 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 Sunrise Medical to establish those powerchairs that would be fit to fly, as well as to retrofit and create new standards for powered wheelchairs.
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 patented Air 4 All system is expected in December 2021.
The consortium is looking for partners across the transport sector to develop the system for other modes of travel like rail and metro.
Globetrotting wheelchair users have long spoken out about the shortcomings they regularly face while travelling and have called on industries, including aviation, to do more to remove the obstacles stifling their thirst for adventure.
A survey last year by ABM Aviation revealed that one of the most common causes of concern for disabled people considering flying was inadequate seat provisioning and re-design making seats difficult to access.