Graphic of the inside of an airplane showing seating arrangements.

Aerospace student project shortlisted for 2023 Crystal Cabin Award

M-SAAVE students highlighted for aircraft innovation design

The Michigan Sustainability Applications for Aerospace Vehicle Engineering (M-SAAVE) Wheelchair Accessibility Mission (WAM) has been shortlisted for the Crystal Cabin Award 2023.

The Crystal Cabin Award is the only international award for excellence in aircraft interior innovation. Every year, the competitive award celebrates outstanding cabin products and concepts that offer a significant improvement in passenger comfort. The award is designed to motivate companies and research facilities to develop new products and modern designs for aircraft cabin interiors that offer useful benefits to the final consumer and manufacturers.

WAM’s design is a unique adaptation that allows certified personal wheelchairs to be used on commercial aircraft. They are creating a mechanical interpretation of 2022 Crystal Cabin Finalist WSU NIAR’s cabin dimensional analysis. 

M-SAAVE team gathered around a table
Student names (left to right) 
Abhinav Athreya, Samuel Opinsky, Zoe Pizzuti, Jad Halabi, Ashley Carman, Maria Reitz, Paul Radulescu, Liam McCarthy, Alan Makoso, and Honor Robertson.

“This project team has taught me just how much of a problem the lack of accessibility in aviation is. People who use wheelchairs have a terrible experience during their flight, and carry a lot of travel trauma. If something we can do can make the tiniest dent in improving accessibility, the team will do whatever possible to make it happen.” says Ashley Carman, U-M Aerospace Sophomore and project chief engineer.

The team is using Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) to design, build, and test an aluminum honeycomb floor plinth integration system that will restrain a wheelchair in a Boeing 737-8M. The M-SAAVE-WAM team intersected existing standards for WC-19 Wheelchairs and FAA Regulations to develop an accessibility-centered system.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this team. The project they’ve developed and the leadership they’ve taken impresses me and our partners every day. I’m thrilled they’re shortlisted and know they are winners, regardless of the results of the competition,” comments George Halow, U-M Aerospace professor of practice and faculty lead for the course.

M-SAAVE is an interdisciplinary student project team established in 2021 at the University Of Michigan, dedicated to humanitarian applications of Aerospace Engineering. Under the guidance of Collins Aerospace, Schroth, and All Wheels Up, the WAM team is creating forward-thinking, sustainable solutions for accessible aircraft travel and a more inclusive future.

The team is competing in the university category, an area of entry that provides room for college students to present their visions for innovative products and concepts for aircraft interiors. Entries in this category focus on making flying more comfortable, smart or ecological.

Currently “Shortlisted”, the WAM team continues in further judging for the competition in the different categories, with finalists announced in May.