New seat opens sky to disabled children

European safety authorities are testing an upgraded passenger seat specifically designed to provide postural support to physically disabled children on board aircraft.

Known as the TravelChair 2012, the seat has been developed by the children’s disability charity MERU and was unveiled at the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s offices at London Gatwick in May.

chair.JPGVirgin Atlantic has already ordered the new seat which replaces a version originally designed a decade ago. Both Virgin and holiday carrier Monarch had used this previous design, but MERU says it was “cumbersome”.

The chair, built by UK aviation interiors specialist Balform, is aimed at accommodating children aged three to 11. It is manufactured from durable materials and features adjustable head- and foot-rests as well as a harness to provide the necessary degree of support. It weighs 6kg (13lb) and folds down to a portable size.

European Aviation Safety Agency regulators are conducting tests on the TravelChair 2012 and MERU expects approval in September this year. Carriers purchase the seat and offer it as a free service upon request when passengers book flights.

“It’s quick to install, has familiar supportive features and fits into the overhead locker when not in use,” adds the charity, which is assisting in talks with several other carriers to take the seat.

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