Design Studio PriestmanGoode, along with Flying Disabled and SWS Certification, has unveiled Air 4 All, a system that aims to revolutionize and democratize air travel for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) by enabling powered wheelchair users to remain in their own wheelchair for the entire air journey. The aircraft seat features a folding design that allows the seat to conceal itself within the backrest, while a rail and lock on the floor lets powered wheelchairs slide in and lock into place, fitting in the area where the seat once was. The launch coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Air Carriers Access Act, passed by US Congress in 1986 to guarantee that people with disabilities would receive consistent and nondiscriminatory treatment when traveling by air.
PriestmanGoode mentions that the Air 4 All system is designed to be compatible with a wide range of airline seats and powered wheelchair types. Currently, the system has been designed keeping the narrowbody 2+2 configuration in mind, giving flights the ability to convert front row seats and install a wheelchair guidance and locking system to the aircraft. This configuration allows for up to two wheelchairs per row to travel on a single flight. A consortium formed by PriestmanGoodde, Flying Disabled, and SWS Certification will also 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, thus enabling passengers with the most challenging disabilities to travel. Chris Wood MBE, Founder of Flying Disabled mentioned that “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.”
In a press release, Paul Priestman, designer and Chairman of PriestmanGoode said “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.”
The Air 4 All seating system forms just one of many innovations by PriestmanGoode in the aviation industry. In 2019, the studio unveiled an eco-friendly in-flight meal tray made from non-plastic elements that were “either partially edible, reusable, soluble or biodegradable.” The studio has also extensively worked with Airbus as strategic design and innovation partners for over 20 years.
The Air 4 All has been granted a patent, and the first prototype of the Air 4 All system is expected in December 2021. The patent covers all types of wheelchairs across every mode of public transport. The consortium is looking for partners across the transport sector to develop the system for other modes of travel like rail and metro.