In a Nutshell:
The Drive Medical’s FW19BL is a great indoor-use chair. Can only handle flat, smooth outdoor terrains though. Recommended for Anyone looking for a solid mostly indoor-use transport chair.
Ease of Use
Unfortunately, this product has been discontinued. Check some of the Transport Chairs we’ve reviewed.
Is your mobility issue putting a damper on your quality of life? Are you looking for a low-cost, lightweight transport chair that will help you enjoy many of the things you used to do, with a little assistance?
If so, then you’re going to love our review of Drive Medical’s FW19BL fly-weight transport chair. As one of the lightest transport chairs on the market today, it may be just what you’re looking for.
Drive Medical is one of the Titans of the mobility device industry and well-known for making top-quality products. This one is no exception, but as you’ll see, this isn’t a “general purpose” transport chair. It’s designed for a relatively specific type of use.
That’s not a bad thing, but it is something to be mindful of. Because if you veer too far from the uses this chair was optimized for, then you’re going to find yourself wishing you’d picked a different model.
Not to worry – we’ll go over everything the FW19BL can (and can’t) do in the sections below so you’ll have all the information you need to decide if it’s the right model for you.
Ready? Let’s jump right in and take a closer look!
An Overview of Drive Medical’s FW19BL Fly-Weight Transport Chair
The “FW” in the model number stands for “Fly Weight,” and this model lives up to its name. Weighing in at just 19 pounds, there aren’t many people who will have trouble folding this chair up and stashing it in most any sized trunk. Even if you’ve got a smaller car, you should have no particular difficulty finding a place to store it for transport to wherever you wish to go.
You can tell that the company placed more emphasis on function and less on form though. It’s fairly utilitarian looking. That’s not a knock against the chair though. Some people like the utilitarian, functional look. It’s by no means unattractive, sporting a handsome blue paint job, with a black seat, seat back, and wheels, it just looks like it’s got a job to do and wants to be about it!
Many chairs offered at this price point don’t give you much in the way of point of sale customization options, and this one’s no exception. The dimensions of the chair are what they are, and they’re either a good fit for you, or they’re not. Here are the FW19BL specs in that regard:
Drive Medical FW19BL Specifications
Don’t let the chair’s incredibly light weight fool you though. This is a sturdy product, crafted from high-grade aluminum, and well-supported, enabling it to hold up to 300 pounds of user weight, which is among the highest weight capacities in its class.
Adjustability & Comfort
Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: Transport chairs aren’t designed with comfort as a top priority. They’re great for short duration sitting like a trip to the mall or grocery store, but this isn’t the chair you’re looking for if you plan to be sitting in it for hours on end.
It should come as no great surprise then, that Drive Medical’s FW19BL fly-weight transport chair isn’t an exceptionally comfy chair. The upholstery it comes with is soft and relatively comfortable, but again, that is said with short-duration sitting in mind.
Yes, there are some things you can do about that. Buying extra cushions for the seat and seat back is a trivial expense, and those things will help, but only to a point. No matter how much padding you add to this model, it’s still not something you’ll want to try and take a nap in or spend the whole day lounging it.
Also, note that neither the seat nor the seatback is angled. They’re both flat and level on their respective planes, which means it feels like you’re sitting in a simple, straight back chair (which itself isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world).
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that if you’re being pushed down a hill, the design of the seat and seat back isn’t doing anything to keep you in it. Fortunately, the Deluxe Fly-Weight aluminum transport chair offers a safety belt to help keep you strapped in, so if you live in a hilly area, you won’t have to worry that you might go sliding out of the chair when headed down a slope.
As with many chairs offered at this price point, the FW19BL doesn’t offer a lot in the way of customization or adjustments. About the only thing that’s adjustable here are the swing-away footrests. And it’s worth noting that because they swing away, it’s possible to have yourself pushed right up to a table to sit with the rest of the family. (On chairs that don’t have swing away footrests, you wind up having to sit quite far back from the table, which makes enjoying a family dinner a bit of a challenge.)
One final thing to call your attention to here is that the Drive Medical Flyweight Lightweight Transport Wheelchair has full-length, rather than desk-length arms. It’s a small detail, but we prefer full-length arms and like their inclusion here very much. From a practical perspective, the longer arms make it somewhat easier for a person with limited mobility to get themselves into and out of the chair, although, being a transport chair, they’ll still need assistance to move about in it.
On-Board Storage & Extras
We regard this as something of a mixed bag. There are some things the FW19BL gets right, and some other things that left us wanting.
For example, the Drive Medical Fly Weight transport chair does offer onboard storage, in the form of a pouch located on the back of the seatback. That’s where wheelchair and transport chair storage is generally found, so it’s no surprise that’s where the company chose to put it, but it still seems less than optimal to us.
We didn’t count it against the company,but given that these chairs are designed for people with mobility issues, we sure wish more companies would offer storage under the seat, such that the person sitting in the chair could more easily get to it.
The other thing we count as a positive is this: Given the low cost of the chair, adding as many aftermarket “extras” as you want is a trivial expense that will still see you spending less money than you would on many other transport chairs.
That gives you the freedom and flexibility to make the chair exactly how you want it to be, without having to pay extra for features you don’t plan on using.
Now let’s talk about the negatives here in our Deluxe Fly-Weight Aluminum transport chair review.
We love that this chair is so lightweight and easy to store, but what would have made it even easier to store would have been the inclusion of a travel bag.
This matters, because to collapse the chair for transport, you’ve got to take the footrests off. Yes, you can just toss them into the trunk next to the chair itself but having a bag to keep everything in one place makes it less likely that you’ll misplace something in transport.
This would have been an easy addition to make that wouldn’t have added significantly to the price of the chair, and we consider its absence a loss.
Speaking of those footrests, the company prides itself on their excellent engineering on that front, having designed them in such a way that you can pop them off quickly and easily, without tools. That’s a good thing, but it can also be a problem sometimes. Since they come off so quickly, they can also come off easily when you don’t really want them to, and there’s not much you can do about it. Be mindful of this!
A (Mostly) Indoor Chair
Back in the introduction, we mentioned that this chair was designed for a fairly specific kind of use. Here’s where we’ll talk more about that. You may have seen the popular tee-shirt featuring a picture of a cute cat with a smug look on his face and the phrase “I’m an Indoor Cat!” That applies here because this is a (mostly) indoor chair.
Drive Medical made the decision to put equally-sized 8” wheels on the chair. Many transport chairs boast slightly larger rear wheels, and the advantage of doing so is that the larger rear wheels make the chair more capable of handling a wider range of terrains.
This decision is a bit of a curiosity to us because adding even slightly larger wheels on the back (say, 12”) wouldn’t have significantly increased the price of the chair and would have made it much more versatile.
As it is, the FW19BL is fine on flat surfaces, but you’ll find it a challenge to maneuver it across even moderately uneven terrain. And indoors, plush carpet may prove to be something of a challenge.
So long as you stick to hardwood floors, tile, laminate, or smooth pavement outside though, you’ll find that it handles quite well and offers a smooth ride. If you want to spend a significant amount of time enjoying the great outdoors, this almost certainly isn’t the chair for you.
Underscoring the fact that this model was designed primarily for indoor use is the fact that there are no handbrakes located at the back of the chair, which means that the person pushing it has no easy means of slowing the chair down on a slope.
The braking mechanisms are located next to the wheels themselves and are rather easy to access, but they’re just not practical for slowing you down on a hill.
No Learning Curve (And No Assembly Required!)
One of the things we like about this model is that it’s ready to use, right out of the box. Just unfold it, snap the footrests on, sit down, and you’re ready to go! It offers one of the quickest setups we’ve ever seen, and it folds up just as quickly. That, combined with its ultra-lightweight makes it exceptional for what it was designed for.
Since there aren’t really any significant adjustments to make on the chair, there’s nothing to learn. Although you will want to spend some time in the chair so you can decide for yourself what, if any aftermarket “extras” you want to add to make it a better fit for you and how you’re using it.
Pros & Cons of the Deluxe Fly-Weight Aluminum Transport Chair
As you can see, there’s a lot to like about this model. In our view, its biggest strengths are:
On the flip side, if we could get the design team to give us anything we wanted, there are a few things we’d like to change. The most significant things are:
We don’t regard any of these as deal breakers, but we felt it was important to mention them so you can compare what this model is and isn’t good at with how you plan on using the chair, so you can determine whether or not it’s a good “fit” for you.
Drive Medical FW19BL Fly-Weight Transport Chair Conclusion
On the whole, we like this model very much, but we cannot stress enough that it is designed for predominantly indoor use. If you don’t spend a lot of time outside anyway, that won’t be a problem, and you’ll enjoy this chair very much.
If you do want to get out in the sun, do some gardening, or enjoy a picnic with the family, Drive Medical’s FW19BL fly-weight transport chair is likely to leave you underwhelmed.
For the right user then, we recommend it.