WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A team from Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research is receiving recognition for a design that could soon help people with disabilities fly in their wheelchairs.

The Fly Your Wheels Suite — designed by NIAR researchers and students in the Advanced Virtual Engineering and Test Labs (AVET), in collaboration with Collins Aerospace and Q’Straint — can be implemented near the first-class cabin of a single-aisle aircraft, such as a Boeing 737.

The design concept centers on modifying an airplane’s cabin closet into an interactive and spacious suite for passengers using a wheelchair.

Currently, people with disabilities are required to fly on standard aircraft seats while relying on auxiliary personnel to board and deplane the aircraft. With this solution, passengers with disabilities have the opportunity to travel comfortably and safely in their wheelchairs.

“These type of applied research programs are what makes NIAR ideal for applied learning opportunities with students and researchers collaborating to provide an efficient and simple solution to a well-known problem,” said Gerardo Olivares, senior research scientist and director of AVET. 

The Fly Your Own Wheels Suite was shortlisted for the Crystal Cabin Award, the only international award for excellence in aircraft interior innovation.