Collins Aerospace and NIAR develop concept for passengers traveling on aircraft with power wheelchairs

June 14, 2022 Photo(s): By Collins Aerospace

Collins Aerospace has teamed up with researchers and students at the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University 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. Fly Your Wheels Suite is a finalist in the University category of the Crystal Cabin Awards.

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 traveling 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 Aerospace."

Winners of the Crystal Cabin Awards will be announced Tuesday, June 14 at a ceremony in Hamburg, Germany.