New system helps disabled flyers evacuate aircraft

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October 31, 2017
ADAPTS evacuate plane diabled passenger
The ADAPTS system aims to make evacuations easier for disabled passengers.

It is a disabled flyer’s worst nightmare: being trapped in the panic-ridden, smoke-filled cabin of an airliner on the ground trying desperately to get out.

The current practice is for crew members just to grab passengers and go.

But a new system may change all that.

“When I was a flight attendant, I knew we needed a better way to save people,” says ADAPTS (A Disabled Passenger Transfer Sling) LLC founder Robin Wearley.

ADAPTS, is a sling system that allows crew to more effectively cradle the disabled to an emergency exit, down the slide and handed off to first responders—who spirit them away from the airliner fast.

Jeff Butler does a decent amount of flying. The 2016 Paralympic Games USA team silver medalist in wheelchair rugby, says the system “fill[s] an important need for the entire disabled community.”

Disability advocate  at WheelchairTravel.org  John Morris puts things a bit more bluntly: “As wheelchair travelers increase in number and take to the skies, it is only a matter of time until one of us is caught in a life-and-death situation on an airplane.”

Once upon a time you could grab a blanket from the overhead bin and use that. That’s before airlines largely eliminated them, at least from the main cabin. Even then, they were not ideal for evacuating disabled flyers.

“An evacuation device needs to be fast and simple to use,” says Wearley. “It’s got to be “water and flame resistant, and have no sharp points to puncture inflatable slides.”

ADAPTS pre-order price is pegged at US$129 via Kickstarter. In what ADAPTS calls an “all or nothing” proposition the product’s success just now is predicated on financial backers kicking in to meet a US$30,000 goal it needs to reach by December 19, 2017.

Don’t look for the airlines to provide the evacuation device for customers as part of the price of a ticket.

Back in the 1980s, in the wake of three smoke-related fatal accidents—a  Saudia TriStar at Riyadh, an Air Canada DC-9 in Cincinnati, and a British Airtours 737 at Manchester—passenger smoke hoods were much in the news. The carriers decided not to offer them

In other news regarding disabled travelers, the US  Department of Transportation has reached an agreement with Alaska/Virgin America and Spirit to significantly expand the availability of popular airport kiosks to the disabled.

DOT Secretary Elaine Chao said the agreement would  “ensure greater accessibility” for the disabled.”