Scottish Trailblazer, Emma Muldoon, tells us how her experience was using the new lifting system on planes: Eagle 2 Lifter.
For most people their holiday begins at the airport once they’ve checked-in their luggage and are finally able to relax. This isn’t always the case for disabled travellers as they often still face a lot of uncertainty and worry about getting on/off the aircraft safely. No matter how many times I’ve flown, I still dread that part of the airport and holiday experience.
However while I was browsing online sometime last year, I stumbled across the Eagle 2 Lifter that looked like the solution to many disabled travellers worries when it comes to travelling by plane. I immediately started doing some research and contacted the company to find out more, specifically if any Scottish airports had the hoist in operation as I usually travel from Edinburgh or Glasgow airport.
Even though I was told these airports didn’t have the Eagle lifter, I made a point of contacting the company every so often for any updates. Finally, I was given some good news that Edinburgh airport had ordered one and was waiting for it to be delivered. By chance, delivery of the hoist and staff training to operate it worked out almost perfectly for my trip to Paris at the end of April. I was really excited to be able to try the Eagle lifter for the first time and also be the first person in Scotland to try it out.
The Eagle Lifter has been designed to safely transfer disabled passengers between their wheelchair and their seat on the aircraft. This eliminates the need for the dreaded manual lift/man-handling and uncomfortable aisle chair, which can often result in injury and discomfort. The Eagle Lifter provides a more dignified and safe transfer for the passenger, but also for the special assistance staff as it’s less strenuous for them.
Due to staff training needs, I wasn’t able to use the Eagle lifter at the start of my journey from Edinburgh, but I was promised it would be provided on my return in Edinburgh and it was. Once the last passenger had left the aircraft we waited for the special assistance team to arrive with the Eagle lifter via the ambulift. I didn’t have any concerns as I’ve used various hoists in my home in the past and the Eagle lifter works in a similar way.
The sling was fitted by sliding it down between me and the back of the plane seat. The two leg straps were pulled forward alongside my upper legs and then crossed under the back of my knees, which were then hooked onto the Eagle lifter. In order to use the lifter, you must be sitting on the right-hand side of the plane. I instantly felt secure as it lifted me from my seat.
During a manual-lift, I would always worry about my arms and legs being pulled too hard or fear my head would flop backwards as it usually does. Or worse….they would drop me. This time, the Eagle lifter was fully supporting me in a safe and comfortable way and the sling came up high enough to support my neck. It lifted me out of the plane and into the ambulift where I was then lowered into my wheelchair.
My experience using the Eagle Lifter was like night and day compared to the unsafe and undignified manual-lift. I’d always choose the Eagle Lifter over being man-handled by complete strangers. That’s why all airports should have this hoist available so that disabled passengers have a choice on how they want to be transferred on/off the aircraft. This also means that it would be used at the start and end of each plane journey, allowing for a more enjoyable, safe, dignified and comfortable experience all round.
The Eagle Lifter is currently available at the following UK airports: Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Heathrow and Gatwick.