Collins Aerospace has teamed up with researchers and students at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University in the US to develop the Fly Your Wheels Suite concept, a certifiable design allowing passengers to travel on board an aircraft using their own power wheelchairs without eliminating existing seats.
The Fly Your Wheels Suite design re-engineers the left closet near the front door of a single aisle aircraft into a safe and functional suite for a passenger travelling on a wheelchair. Requiring a one-time modification, the suite enables both forward and rear-facing orientations, depending on the occupant’s preference. If unused, the suite can easily transition back into a functional closet or even an area where crew can relax.
“Helping enable air travel for passengers of all mobilities is an imperative for the entire air travel industry and one we are eager to continue collaborating on with our partners,” said Luis Gomez, virtual engineering manager for NIAR. “That we might be able to provide a safe, interactive and spacious solution for wheelchair users, allowing them to board, deplane and travel as any other passenger is an incredible opportunity.”
Fly Your Wheels Suite minimally impacts existing seating arrangements and cabin cargo space, effectively adding an extra passenger to an aircraft’s load. While in use, the cabin cargo volume taken by the added passenger in a Fly Your Wheels Suite is given back by two forward upper monument stowage spaces, known as bustles, providing an equivalent amount of storage as an unmodified closet.
“The addition of another passenger combined with the suite’s inherent flexibility is an incredible innovation and key differentiator of the Fly Your Wheels Suite project,” said Glenn Johnson, technical fellow of industrial design at Collins Aerospace. “This project really underscores the world of possibilities available when combining the considerable body of knowledge from NIAR with the industry expertise of Collins.
Luis Gomez added: “The Fly Your Wheels Suite concept solves two problems at once. First and foremost, it provides passengers with reduced mobility the opportunity to travel comfortably and safely in their own wheelchair while allowing them to board and deplane the aircraft independently, as in other public transit systems. Secondly, it provides airlines with an additional passenger on board when in use and a rest space for crew members when unoccupied.
“Helping passengers fly on their own wheelchair has been in the back on my mind since I met Michele Erwin from All Wheels Up several years ago. Based on several studies, it is known that one of the major fears for passengers with reduced mobility is to lose, or have their wheelchair damaged, during travel. The core focus of the Fly Your Wheels Suite project is to solve this problem, providing passengers assurance they will be able to reach their destination safely and comfortably while sitting on their own wheelchair and therefore eliminating part of their concern.”