UK-based charity Medical Engineering Resource Unit (MERU) has designed a new version of its "TravelChair" for disabled children.
The safety seat can be placed in economy class passenger seats and fixated with a single strap around the back rest. It accommodates children aged between three and 11 years with mild to severe disabilities, who can be secured with the standard seat belt as well as a padded four-point harness. It also has adjustable head side supports and a footrest.
MERU designed the first version in 1999, which has since been used by British Airways, Monarch and Virgin Atlantic. With regulations tightening in the meantime and the existing seats becoming worn out, Virgin contacted MERU to design an updated version, says TravelChair designer Graham Race.
He adds that while the new model is slightly heavier at 6kg (13lb) than its predecessor, it can accommodate larger children, offers more adjustable features and is simpler to use for the cabin crew. Folded together, the seat fits into overhead bins.
MERU developed the seat together with families with disabled children, airlines and aviation authorities. EASA approval is expected to be given in June. Virgin trialled the seat and is currently the only airline to have ordered it.
Race says that many families with disabled children are unaware that they can travel on aircraft. He adds that thus far there are no competitor products on the market.