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Flying in Wheelchairs

Jun. 29, 2012 - 03:49PM   |  
By LAUREN BIRON   |   Comments
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Designed for a generation of active yet disabled veterans seeking new hobbies, HotSeat Chassis gave the first public demonstration of the Flex Sim flight simulator on June 28 at the seventh annual Capitol Hill Modeling and Simulation Expo.

The simulator is designed for easy wheelchair access and instead of foot pedals, the airplane’s rudder is operated with buttons on the yoke, putting all of the controls in the pilot’s hands. Coordinating such precise movements while managing the aircraft can be a good form of rehabilitation for veterans, particularly if there has been some kind of arm injury, the company said.

“It’s all fine motor skills,” said Justin Friedland, who demonstrated the flight simulator at the expo. “Plus, it’s damn fun.”

Inspired by a New York Times article about disabled veterans paragliding, HotSeat Chassis began developing a wheelchair-accessible simulator that could provide “rehabilitation, training and fun” for returning service members who wanted to get back in the air.

The simulator features four large screens that run Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D software and display HD graphics. Unlike most of the company’s products, there is no chair — users can roll their wheelchair directly up to the controls. Users can then virtually fly around various airports and cities, glance out the side windows of their plane and monitor a panel full of gauges. The system also includes a throttle, autopilot, flap control, and additional features you would find in a real plane.

The simulator can be used for flight simulation and air traffic control training, or configured with a steering wheel for driving scenarios.

While the system has just premiered, Friedland hopes to gain endorsement from Department of Veterans Affairs and push the system out to users.

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