The Wright invention: Island man solves air travel barrier for people with disabilities

The Wright invention: Island man solves air travel barrier for people with disabilities

When a young and active Kenny Wright was suddenly paralyzed in a Cowichan car crash on his high school grad night in the 1970s, his big brother Butch wanted more than anything to help him.

“Just to see what he went through, it was hard,” said Butch Wright, a Maple Bay resident and founder of Aircraft Access Solutions.

So the Maple Bay truck driver went to his workshop and started piecing together what could make his brother’s life better. From there Wright made a better fitting wheelchair and harnesses that wouldn’t hurt when his brother was lifted.

“And then I thought I was done and he goes: ‘No, other people need this,'” said Wright.

Now Wright’s perfected harness and his newest lift invention is tackling a major barrier for travel on our rugged coast, that has left generations of people with disabilities without access to float planes and the remote locations they travel to.

“When I took Ken flying it almost killed me trying to get him and and out of the plane,” said Wright.

What Wright has invented has brought the praise of ‘Man in Motion’ Rick Hansen.

“Butch is an unbelievable guy because he’s like many Canadians who have a family member who has a disability and they have challenges and barriers and rather than complain about it, he’s put his mind in motion and he’s innovated solutions and this lift fills a gap all across Canada and around the world,” said Hansen, of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

It’s called the ‘Wright Lift,’ after Butch and his brother Kenny’s family name, and is a quickly assembled motorized lift for people who range from minor mobility issues to near full paralysis.

After a ride up into a float plane or helicopter’s cabin aboard a ramp, then transferring into a seat, passengers with mobility issues can quickly take off in a float plane now.

“It’s unbelievable how easy that is,” said Hansen, as he boarded a Sea Air Seaplane Tuesday.

“If you’re happy, I’m happy,” said Wright.

Sea Air Seaplanes has brought four lifts aboard its  aircraft and trained up crew to use them. Sea Air’s Owner Peter Clarke said the lifts are now being used, often.

“If you have mobility problems, we can easily load you into a sea plane, just like everybody else,” said Clarke.

“Well it’s a good feeling to see people using it and going where they never thought they’d go,” said Wright.

“So I’m really hopeful that Butch will be able to move this into production mode and move this all around the world,” said Hansen.

They’re crafting a made-in-B.C. solution that all started with a man’s love of his brother. A brother who is watching on proudly now as Butch Wright changes the world for those around him.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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