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An Easier Way to Fly

A new airplane seat is designed to let people who use wheelchairs remain in their wheelchairs throughout a flight.

Closeup of a hand on the wheel of a wheelchair facing an airport window through which a plane is ready for boarding.

© Cunaplus/Dreamstime.com

A new type of airplane seat could make it a lot easier for wheelchair users to travel by allowing them to remain in their wheelchairs for an entire flight.

The airline seat was developed by Delta Flight Products (DFP), a company that’s owned by Delta Airlines. It can function as a traditional airplane seat. The seat can also fold up so that a wheelchair can be backed into the spot. In this configuration (or form), the headrest, center console, and tray table can still be used.

Rick Salanitri, president of DFP, says it will make travel easier for people who use wheelchairs.

“This patented design offers new possibilities for customers with disabilities to enjoy a travel experience they truly deserve,” Salanitri said. 

Many disability advocates have cheered the invention. Cory Lee is an avid traveler who has been to 43 countries so far. But he says air travel can be difficult because of the need to move from his wheelchair to an airline seat. Lee told CNN that he’s “unbelievably excited” about the new seat. 

Currently the seat is only a prototype—a test model. It will need to be tested and certified according to U.S. and European safety standards. If all goes well, the seat could become available for airlines to install on planes by late 2024.

Maayan Ziv, founder of AccessNow, a mobile app that helps people with disabilities find helpful resources, is excited that Delta Airlines is involved with this innovation. Ziv, who uses a wheelchair, points out that it could win Delta some new customers.

“The disability community spends over $58 billion on travel annually,” she told CBS News. “I know what airline I’ll be flying with when these prototypes hit production.”

Did You Know?

© 22Imagesstudio/stock.adobe.com

About 1.3 billion people worldwide have what the World Health Organization calls a “significant disability.” That’s about one in every six people. Many nations have passed laws to expand the rights of people with disabilities and ensure they have the same opportunities as people who don’t have disabilities. 

But there is a lot more to be done. Around the world, individuals and organizations are working to pass new laws and get governments to enforce existing ones.

Old School Travel

People dressed in 1930s clothing sit in a narrow passenger plane while a flight attendant stands in the aisle.

© Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com

This 1930s photo shows passengers traveling in style on a Boeing 247 plane.

You might have read that the Wright Brothers undertook the first successful airplane flights in 1903. Their experiments would change travel forever. 

In 1933, just 30 years after those first flights, the first modern passenger plane made its debut. The Boeing 247 could carry 10 passengers and three crew members. It flew 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) in the air at speeds of about 180 miles per hour (290 kilometers per hour). It was safer than previous passenger planes. 

The plane took 20 hours to fly from New York to Los Angeles, making seven stops along the way. That’s super slow compared to today’s passenger planes, which can fly that same distance in about six hours without stopping. But in 1933, it was much faster than any other mode of transportation. People were probably amazed.

Making History

George Bush Library/NARA

U.S. president George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law aimed at protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities. You can read more about the ADA at Britannica School.

WORD OF THE DAY

accessible

PART OF SPEECH:

adjective

Definition:

: able to be reached or approached

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