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My flight to DC with my ZRc

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    My flight to DC with my ZRc

    A few weeks ago, I posted a thread about a "Spinergy clip" that I fabricated to help secure my Spinergys/NaturalFit had rims for my trip to Washington D.C. for the RESNA Conference. I mentioned it was part of a system I was working on to be able to quickly package my ZRc as compactly as possible to minimize the risk of airline damage.

    To ensure there would be no problems with airport security, I had to be able to do this without tools and I wanted everything to be stored on the chair itself. Key areas I wanted to protect were the front frame, hand rims, axles, axle sleeves, and backrest release bar. While things worked out slightly differently than planned, my ZRc, Natural Fits, and Spinergy wheels did make it safely from Cleveland to DC and back. On both occasions it was stuffed into the cargo holds of smallish Embraer regional jets which carry 135-150 passengers which were operated by Continental Express.

    To protect the front frame, I fabricated a "footrest extension" out of 3/4" ABS rod which I attached to the footrest with wheel lock clamps. When combined with my custom push handles, the front frame does not touch the ground if the backrest is completely folded. I still put on full-length frame protectors made of PVC sump pump tubing (The front strap of my adjustable tension seat upholstery secures to upper portion to the frame)...

    These are the components I used to package the chair once I arrived at the gate...

    These were stored on the backrest...

    At the gate I removed the axles and secured the wheels with the handrims facing inward using the clip...

    To prevent potentially lethal scratches to the axles or the receivers at the ends of the camber tube, I put the axles back in the receivers, and slid pieces of 1.25" ID tubular foam over the axles onto the camber tube. They fit snugly enough to hold the axles completely inside the axle sleeves.

    The carrying strap is a modified tool belt from Home Depot which costs about $5. I molded an ABS hook to attach if to the backrest rigidizing bar and mounted to the other end around camber tube. It snaps together where the strap passes through the wheels. The strap passes over the TiShaft relase bar to hold it down and prevent it from being damaged if it were to be used as a handle.

    The lashing straps are courtesy of Pride/Quantum Rehab--who use them to secure powerchairs to the pallet during shipping. I guess they are supposed to be thrown away, but they cinch up tight and could probably be sold for a few bucks each at a hardware store. While the lashing straps hold the wheels against the frame, their primary function is to keep the backrest folded securely. (If backrest opened up, the bend in the front frame would be the first thing hitting the concrete. Ouch!).

    View from the underside of the frame...

    Even if the chair were set down "normally" (or on it's side for that matter) everything was still relatively protected...

    For my flight out, I got to the gate and bundled everything up within 1-2 minutes. A man waiting to board the same flight told me how impressed he was with the ZRc and my system for packaging it. I proceded to share with him the full history of how I developed the greatest ever TSA-approved system for packaging a rigid frame chair for air travel. Fortunately for him, before I could expound any further, an airline representative came over and asked if I would be able to board the plane without assistance. I told her I could, and she went on to say that the flight wasn't that crowded and I could carry my ZRc onboard and store it at the back of the cabin. While I was happy to to hear it woud not be in the cargo hold, it donned on me that they expected me to carry it down the jetway myself (not something I could easily do). The man I was talking to offered to carry it onboard for me. Unfortunately, it was too wide to fit down the aisle and it still ended up in the cargo hold. I expressed my gratitude by thanking him and deciding not to share further details about how I developed the greatest TSA approved system ever for tranporting a...(well, you know the rest).

    When I arrived in DC, the ground crew passed the ZRc along with several small pieces of luggage onto the jetway near the door to the aircraft. Between the passengers waiting to pick up their bags and the limited staff available on the jetway, I realized my assumption that airline staff would be able to carry my chair from the terminal to/from the plane was wrong. Fortunately, the same gentleman who carried the ZRc down the jetway in Cleveland offered to carry it to the terminal in D.C. where I reassembled it.

    Learning from this experience, I did not combine the chair and wheels for the trip back to Cleveland. Instead, I used one lashing strap to keep the backrest closed and routed the other to act as a carrying strap and secure the TiShaft release bar. Having two lighter, less-bulky, components would made it easier to manage. This time a staff member carried the ZRc and Spinergys onto the plane for me. Fortunately, one of the Invacare product managers I know happened to be on my flight and offered to carry my chair down the jetway when we arrived in Cleveland.

    Other than the logistical issue getting the compacted chair across the jetway, my system worked as intended. Before I have to fly with my chair again, I'm going to find a a way to mount 4 small wheels on it so that I can pull the compacted chair across the jetway by myself.

    Will my system eliminate the risk for airline-related damage? Perhaps not. On both flights, I watched the ground crew place my chair on top of a 4 shelf cart they use to transport items from the jetway to the cargo hold. On both occasions, they put the ZRc on top of the empty cart, then proceded to toss luggage onto the lower shelves of the cart. With every "thud" I saw my chair move a little. While I cringed several times, the ZRc managed to avoid plummeting from the top of the cart to the tarmack (approximately 7 feet).

    Fortunately, I'm not flying anywhere in the near-future, so I will not have to "roll the dice" with the fate of my chair for at least a few months.
    Last edited by SCI_OTR; 6 Jul 2008, 10:47 PM.


    What any ingenious system.


    "We must overcome difficulties rather than being overcome by difficulties."


      Only if we can come up with a better way to remove and put on the under seat pouch.

      I have some ideas that would require welding a semi-circle piece of titanium rod 1/8th in diameter to the frame but welding titanium is a very specialized welding process.

      Excellent job SCI_OTR!

      Excellent idea above! A++

      "We must overcome difficulties rather than being overcome by difficulties."


        Update: Flight to Vegas for the 2010 RESNA Conference

        I am happy to report that I have been using this system successfully for several trips over the past two years (frame & wheels packaged separately).

        The only significant change for this trip was the addition of a grab handle to the camber tube. It looks more custom than necessary because I was fabricating it the night before my flight and discovered I didn't have enough ABS rod to make a decent handle. I improvised by supplementing what ABS rod I had with remnants of the back loop off my original footrest (Why did I have to replace my original footrest? Let's just say that when they say titanium is a more-difficult material to work with than aluminum, they're not kidding.)

        While the handle helps me carry the frame, my main reason for adding it was to increase the chances airline/hotel shuttle staff will set the frame down in a protected position. It was also positioned to keep the backrest release bar, hinge, and camber tube/clamp off the ground if the frame is set it down "normally" (rear wheels off & casters on the ground). The "Spinergy clip" also protected my glossy NaturalFits (which can not be replaced if damaged).

        I also discovered this trip that I could put the packaged frame & wheels on top of my suitcase and pull them behind me for short distance while ambulating. I found this to be the lesser of two evils at the hotel when confronting the 75-100 yards of carpeting between the elevator and my supposedly "handicap accessible" rooom.

        Ironically, my suitcase was damaged during the flight home and will have to be replaced.




            Related post within another thread...



              Bravo! Very innovative system!
              I'm Sam.


                Wow this seem like too much planning and trouble for me, but it's good for anyone who wants to do that. I've been a frequent traveler since before my sci and in the past going on six years I just take my cushion off to use on the plane or for shorter trips I just use an extra calf strap to keep my cushion from coming off, and that's it.

                I use to take my sideguards off too, but I got fixed carbon fiber ones so I don't have to worry about that now. I've done way more damage through everyday use than the airlines have ever done.


                  Update: Trip to Nashville for ISS 2011

                  The last couple of conferences I've attended have taken place in host hotels with carpeted ramps which are absolutely killer if you need to go up while pulling your luggage behind you. Ive also discovered that the hotel shuttle bus drivers can be rougher on an unoccupied chair than the airlines. Frequently, their pick up spot at the airport has been 150-200 feet away from anywhere I can sit down and "compact" my chair for transport.

                  As a result, I find myself in some situations where it is actually easier to walk and pull my chair/luggage behind me. With this in mind, I developed the 3G version of my Travel Ready System.

                  The ABS loop I was using on the front of my footrest really did not give me safe ground clearance since it clamped onto the underside of my footrest. This time around I fabricated a pair of "standoff hooks" out of extension tubes from an old titanium footrest headed for the trash bin. As you can see, it performs the same function as the ABS loop...

                  Not only do they keep the front frame off of the pavement, they have another benefit--they hold my wheels in place in situations where I need to walk short distances pulling my chair/suitcase behind me...

                  One thing that I am learning is that once some airline/hotel staff realize you have the ability to stand and walk, all bets are off with respect to the amount of assistance you can expect. The concept of needing a wheelchair only for some aspects of functional mobility is beyond their comprehension. "No thank you, I don't need an aisle chair, but would it be possible to get assistance getting my chair and wheels across the jetway?". The level of courtesy I have received when I've asked for such help has varied.

                  A similar example occurred Wednesday when I arrived at the airport in Nashville for ISS. The host hotel is the largest hotel in the country which does not have a casino attached to it. Because of this, they run their own non-stop shuttle service to the airport.

                  I rolled up to their desk at the airport, purchased my shuttle ticket, and headed for the exit. I stopped near the doors repackaged my chair, threw it on top of my suitcase, and lugged it outside to the pick up location approximately 150 feet away. It was a difficult walk, but do-able.

                  Even though I had told her it wouldn't be necessary, the woman who sold me the ticket for the shuttle apparently arranged to have their wheelchair accessible shuttle pick me up.

                  Their "wheelchair accessible shuttle" turned out to be an empty full-size bus equipped with a lift (the type of bus used for interstate travel that carry 50-60 passengers). Once the driver saw my repackaged chair and wheels sitting at the curb, she asked if I was able to board the shuttle without a lift. When I told her I could, she said her bus was only for guests in wheelchairs who need a lift, and that the regular shuttle would arrive shortly. Incredibly, she then drove away with an empty bus. A few minutes later, a nearly-identical bus which did not have a lift pulled up and I boarded it along with the other guests. The driver of that shuttle was far from gentle handling my chair as he loaded it into the luggage compartment or when he set it down on the sidewalk at the hotel.

                  I found it ironic that if I would have simply remained in my chair, I would have been able to get right on that first shuttle with no worries about my chair getting damaged en route. I also wondered if the other guests would have been allowed to board or if I would have had the whole bus to myself.


                  My system takes about 10 minutes to install and I have already run into several situations where my frame would have major gouges or components would have been damaged had I not taken the effort to use it. I pay out of pocket for anything related to my chair and have probably spent around $3,000 on it to date. It has been a worthwhile investment, but one I need to protect. I don't expect many people would ever duplicate my system, but I imagine many cc members may want to apply some of the underlying concepts.

                  For example, one could probably protect expensive ergonomic pushrims or wheels by bundling them using nylon threaded rod and using the tubular foam to secure their quick release axles inside the camber tube. Someone traveling with a sports chair may also find some of these concepts helpful.
                  Last edited by SCI_OTR; 7 Mar 2011, 11:50 PM.


                    Where can I get those wheel lock clamps. Thats what is striped on my shower chair and I see they function for other uses also.
                    Last edited by forestranger52; 6 Mar 2011, 7:23 PM.
                    C 5/6 Comp.
                    No Tri's or hand function.

                    Far better it is to try mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure. Than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much or suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory or defeat.

                    Teddy Roosevelt


                      Originally posted by forestranger52 View Post
                      Where can I get those wheel lock clamps. Thats what is striped on my shower chair and I see they function for other uses also.
                      I believe those are 3/4" to 3/4" clamps which are available from just about any manufacturer.