The Falcon

A folding power wheelchair suitable for ME/CFS and other conditions which require head support, a recline and raised feet. The headrest and raisable footrests are not included but you can add them. I think this will be a great chair for me when traveling places where I can’t use a wheelchair van and for shorter times out around my hometown, especially in tight indoor spaces like restaurants and people’s houses.

A comparable chair line that also has a recline option is the EZlite cruiser deluxe models. They are very similar (the Falcon is closest to their DX12 model- better for outdoors, but a little heavier). The EZlite batteries are underneath so are less accessible while seated. The EZlite gives you more of a range of model options, but their accessories (headrest) look less robust (flimsy adjusters that I know from the Perimobile will snap in a heartbeat). The EZlite breaks up into smaller pieces, the heaviest of which is 35-37 pounds. They have a patented quick release system for their wheel motors so you can remove the wheels. The Falcon does not break down easily other than battery and accessory (headrest/footrest) removal. The EZ lite goes a little farther in its recline (but I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving a chair like this at that much of a recline- better for resting only). The Falcon comes in pretty colors, the EZlite does not. Because the Falcon is new, it is very hard to find a used model, but you can find used EZlites on Ebay.

red wheelchair folded up in front of a red couch
red wheelchair with headrest and footrest in front of a red couch

For most things I have my Perimobile M300 which I have had since 10/2017. This is a HUGE chair which requires a wheelchair van to transport. The reason I have it is that it does a full recline and is very sturdy and comfortable. I can be all day in that chair at Disneyland and be okay. The shocks are good, the cushion is 6″ deep. I can lay flat to rest completely. Also it does pretty well on hills (I live in San Francisco), rougher terrain and in the rain and sleet and even some snow.

The problem is there are places it won’t go. It requires a wheelchair van. It can’t be carried up stairs or navigate comfortably in houses. It is also a huge commitment for someone who needs a chair similar to it because you need to commit to a van as well and that can be a hardship.

The Falcon is a great solution. It is FDA approved, so you can get it through some insurance, but the manufacturer said Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover it because they cover the big chairs instead. It has a recline (manual from the back). It does not come with the headrest and raisable footrests, but you can buy them separately (headrest $138, footrests $300 as of today 3/10/2021). The chair itself is about $3000 if you buy it without insurance. I am afraid it is new enough that used models are hard to find. You can find EZlite more easily used.

It is very well made and designed. All the parts are sturdy. The adjustment knobs on the headrest are WAY more robust than the ones on my 2016 Perimobile M300. The raisable leg rests look the same as on my manual but they are way more sturdy, so there is a quality scale there too.

I ordered from the manufacturer (QuicknMobile) which makes it very easy to get the compatible accessories. They also give you a lot of free stuff (a car charger, a light/horn, cupholder) and then more heavily branded free stuff from “Discover Your Mobility” (a bag big enough for the headrest and footrest, a little bag for the arm (which I recommend putting on the inside of the arm so you don’t destroy things going through doors), a traffic flag, oxygen tank bag, and an umbrella that attaches to the chair). I specifically asked not to have the flag and the oxygen bag, but apparently if you ask for any of the free things you get them all. These came ahead of the chair together with the headrest and footrests and the hardware for connecting the headrest.

On their website are various videos explaining how to put things together and how they work.

Details

When you turn it on it will do a long beep, after which it will move. If you try to move and it keeps beeping, that means your wheels are still unlocked/in manual mode. You need to flip the switches back to drive again.

Power to Manual/Brakes There are little switches on the back wheels that you flip up towards the chair (after turning the chair off) to put it into manual mode. A very handy feature if you run out of batteries! Also an important feature for pulling the chair after it is folded. Putting them into the power mode by flipping the down away from the chair also functions as a brake.

Batteries The chair came with 2 batteries (one in each strut) which you can pull out while seated. The battery Life is 11miles per battery (so 22 mile range with the 2). They say the battery lasts 3-4 years for these batteries when charged properly. For your first charge let run them down pretty low. Charging only takes 3-4 hours. If you charge longer (like overnight) the battery will last less long. Large batteries like the Perimobile’s take all night to charge fully and they last 1-2 years when charged each day. You can buy extra batteries for the Falcon, but they recommend regularly swapping them out if you do. If they sit in a closet for long periods without charging cycles they will die fast.

You can also remove one battery and charge it while still running on the other battery.

lever for controlling a recline

The Recline (with the headrest) is just enough for me to not have to support my torso and head without using my muscles and energy to do so. It does not go far enough to actually lay down and rest fully, but it works. I can twist around to adjust it myself, but it is awkward. The seat back is comfortable enough for shorter periods, but not great for very long (the upper back has no cushioning. I may add a custom pad. The recline was clearly not designed to use without a headrest. The manual control for the recline is in the back of the chair. You just lift up the lever and mover the chair back or forward. If it were power, according to the wheelchair repair guy I spoke with, the weight of the mechanism would make it tip backwards. This chair does not feel in any danger of tipping backwards on level ground.

side view of the headrest of a wheelchair

The Headrest has a separate piece of hardware (the black bar with the U-shaped parts). Which attaches to the back of the chair with the use of an allen wrench (at the silver pieces). If you make that very secure it can stay on when the chair is folded. Then you can slip the headrests in and out of that bar when you fold it up and tighten the knob to secure it. Don’t forget to tighten the knob when you slip it out too so you don’t lose the knob. It bends in three places to be extra adjustable (the EZlite one doesn’t).

back view of the hearest of the wheelchair
view of the foot lever for the wheelchair

The leg rests These pop on and off very easily. They are sturdier than the ones of similar design on the manual I used to have for my backup chair. They feel strong and like I can trust them. In the others they felt shaky, so my muscles were constantly reacting to movement in little ways that added up. To raise them you just put a little pressure on your foot and lift your leg. To lower them you flip the little lever away from you.

Folding and unfolding Is shockingly easy. It just pops open and closed. Very little effort needed. The one thing I would say is that once it is folded it is awkward. Don’t forget to flip the switches to unlock the wheels so it can be pulled.

view of the plug connection for the wheelchair controller

For air travel you should REMOVE THE CONTROLLER and carry it with you onto the plane. I also intend to get or make velcro straps to hold it in the closed position. It wants to pop open. It looks like it would be very hard to kill once strapped shut with the controller, headrests and footrests removed, but if you are concerned you can also get a travel case from QuicknMobile which should protect it completely. One concern I have with the case is that they won’t recognize it is a wheelchair and you will have to get it back at baggage claim instead of the gate. I think if everything is tightened down the headrest hardware should be fine to travel with the chair instead of with you in the bag, but it does stick out, so if you are concerned you should remove that too and take it with you. The cord unplugs and you unscrew the base of the controller.. No tools required. To plug it back in make sure the arrows match.

Also make sure to flip the switches to put it into manual mode so the airline loaders can easily move it.

It is FAA travel approved and has lithium ion batteries.

Arms the arms should support your full weight. They are very sturdy.

Weight and size The weight limit to sit in the chair is 400lbs. If you need to widen the seat and the arm rests there are extra parts you can order.

The weight of the chair itself with both batteries in it is 58lb. This likely means someone else will have to put it in the trunk for you if you have a condition like mine. Cab drivers used to loading luggage should have no problem with this.

How it drives I tested it for the first time on a rainy day between showers. I believe it is comparable to other lightweight chairs. I was comparing it against my Perimobile, which obviously handles terrain, wet, etc. better.

wheelchair controller

Speeds 1 is a good indoor speed. 2 for maneuvering tricky spots and I wouldn’t go faster than this indoors unless it is a huge space like an airport. 3 is a gentle walking pace. 4 is a faster walking pace, and 5 is at the top of a brisk walk. In the Perimobile 2 is a slow walk, 3 is a brisk walking pace, 4 is a light jog and 5 is a slow run. I think the Falcon will be nice in that is has a setting that corresponds to a regular walking pace, but it also isn’t going to get you somewhere too fast.

Handling It is very maneuverable, but at the higher speeds this makes the sideways motions a little squirrely. It drives like my Perimobile does in “inside” mode.

Slopes/Hills According to the manual

  • Never drive the wheelchair on a slope steeper than 10 degrees
  • Never drive the wheelchair on a slope if there is snow, ice, water or oil on it.
  • Never drive the wheelchair on a slope with uneven surfaces or change of slope grade
  • Be aware that some slopes have a drop off at the bottom that may cause the chair to tip forward

I would add that a raised bit before a slope that is slightly more than an inch (in this case a driveway with an 1.5 inch raise before the slope) makes the chair jolt alarmingly, but it seems to be ok. This is a smaller chair problem (my Perimobile wouldn’t even register a bump like that). Anything more than that and you will want someone to spot the back of your chair for you. Until you get used to what it can do this might be a good idea on things like this anyways if you can do it.

going over a slope bump

My driveway is a slope and a slippery when wet (smooth painted concrete, not rough) and it had some trouble with that (the manual says don’t drive in those situations). The wheels don’t have as much grip as in the larger chair. Tiny things like an extension cord for my other chair laying across the driveway set it alarmingly off course. To be safe I had to have my husband push it in manually.

These things the larger power wheelchair plows through without difficultly. This chair is not designed for that and is typical of smaller, foldable chairs in that way. It has things it won’t do, but there are things it can do the bigger chairs can’t (like fit in a trunk!).

One thing this chair can do that the larger chairs can’t is to go up a single shallow stair with the help of someone else. You could easily have someone in back tiptoe front wheels up to the stair and then lift the back of chair up onto it. I would recommend doing this is manual mode only.

The Falcon won’t handle big hills. It takes a while to get used to what a 10 degree slope looks like to know what you should and shouldn’t do. While you are learning you may want to sit up if possible when going uphill, and lean back going uphill to shift your center of gravity. You probably would be safer with someone spotting you at the back of your chair while you figure out what sorts of slopes it will do. For comparison the Perimobile says a “safe” slope is 8 degrees and its max slope is 9 degrees. I have with spotters done steeper than that for sure.

On a sideways slope (like if a driveway cuts across a sidewalk) the Falcon definitely veers downhill when you are pointed straight. You need to steer heavily uphill and forward at the same time to avoid it sliding down. In the Perimobile you just steer straight. Here is a video of me steering straight in the Falcon on a sideways slope.

Smoothness You can feel every seam in the concrete, but it doesn’t hurt. In my manual chair every seam in the concrete was a jolt. In this chair you feel each one but it isn’t uncomfortable. I imagine that after a length of time it would wear on you though. In my Perimobile I don’t notice the seams, just major bumps. In this chair going over a rough patch of concrete is bumpy, but not jarring. Here is a video of me going over a bumpy patch.

Other Similar Chairs Without a Recline Quicknmobile makes two other chairs which do not recline which are otherwise very similar. Here is a video showing the three of them. EZlite makes a bigger range of chairs and more options which include both recline and non recline options. You are also more likely to find them used because they have been in production longer. The Quickie Tilt-in-space wheelchair is another option. It tilts the seat as well, more like a larger power chair.

Published by Mary Corey March

I am a contemporary artist living and working in San Francisco. The root of my work is exploring both the individual person and humanity through identity, relationships, diversity, and commonality. How do we define ourselves and each other? Where do we draw the lines and what happens _on_ those lines? How to we frame our experiences? How much of our humanity can come through in a data format? Through our symbolic images? Our words? Our definitions? Our bodies? These are the questions I delve into again and again. In May of 2017 I became disabled with ME/CFS. I have since continued my artwork with the help of assistants. I am in a wheelchair outside of the home.

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