It’s a bird…It’s a plane…It’s a flying wheelchair

Wouldn’t it be neat if wheelchairs could fly? That’s what I’ve been daydreaming about since making the trip to Houston, Texas last week.

 I learned a lot about traveling with a motorized wheelchair. It wasn’t my first time on a plane; however, it was my maiden voyage without Mom or Dad. That was a big step toward being more independent! Big thanks to my buddy Nathan for being my sidekick on this trip.

Until someone invents a flying wheelchair, here are 5 tips when planning a flight:

 1.      Call the airline early to schedule accommodations.

 For the passenger: Skycaps at the airport will help you transfer from your wheelchair to the seat on the plane. A small aisle chair is used to take you from your wheelchair to the seat on the plane. Bulkhead seats allow for ample room on the plane.

 For the wheelchair: Since wheelchairs are stored in the cargo section, inform the airline of the type of battery cell in the powered chair (dry, wet or gel).

 Keep all removable parts of the chair with you on board the plane if they come off the chair easily. For example, lateral pads, headrest, seat cushion, etc. (when boarding the flight, ask for a big bag to store all the items).

 2.      Give yourself plenty of time to make connecting flights.

 If you can’t schedule a direct flight, make sure to have a layover allowing you to make it to the next plane. You can get your chair brought to you during layovers, or you may use a manual wheelchair from the airport.

 (We almost missed our return flight from Atlanta to Charleston since the Atlanta airport is so large)

 3.      Schedule wheelchair accessible ground transportation from the airport to your destination.

 Call to see if there are accessible taxis or paratransit available. Make sure their vehicles have lifts or ramps.

 4.      Have contact numbers for durable medical equipment representatives in the area you’re visiting in case any urgent issues arise with your wheelchair.

 (I had to call the national Permobil number while in Houston when my chair was stuck in tilt and wouldn’t drive)

 5.      Have fun! Don’t let your disability stop you from exploring the world!

If you have any tips to share, please comment below. Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

About Tuesday Talk With Alex

Born in Charleston, SC, I was injured in a motor vehicle accident when I was nine months old. I acquired a C5-C6 spinal cord injury. I'm now 30 years old and I do not let my disability deter me from acheiving my goals and enjoying life. I will be sharing my experience of living with a spinal cord injury.
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7 Responses to It’s a bird…It’s a plane…It’s a flying wheelchair

  1. Mihal, Deborah F says:

    This is awesome, but my 10-year old already beat you to this idea a year ago…. 😉 Maybe ya’ll could work together on a prototype! He’s totally into robotics.


  2. Yvette Lambright says:

    Thanks for the tips Alex. My mom is paralyze on one side and has both a wheelchair and walker (which prefers most). She does a lot of traveling and is slowly heading toward using the wheelchair more so these tips are awesome. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Great title Alex! Superman was my hero! You mentioned it but I want to emphasize that at every connection you want YOUR wheelchair at the airplane’s door ready for you to make it to your next connection. This way your chair makes it off of the plane and hopefully on to the next one. Make sure that they will have an aisle chair ready as well. Often, they do not. I’ve had to transfer to my wheelchair from the airline’s stack of food trays to avoid missing my connection. Sit on your seat cushion while using their aisle chair. I have had my tailbone hurt from hurried attendants! Carry on board all medical supplies and medicine just in case they lose your luggage! I schedule at least an hour in between flights. Bathrooms on airplanes are usually NOT accessible.


  4. Shelton says:

    Remember you will be searched by TSA and allow extra time if you need a private screening. Communicate your special circumstances to TSA. Be patient, arrive early, and remember to thank your skycap. Please tip if you received excellent service. Great post Alex.


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