PSA Airlines Partners with Wings for Autism® – Gives Kids a Moment to Remember

Captain Edward Hartzig III and First Officer Robert Baker, Flight Attendants Melanie Lopez and William Robinson.

Left to right: Flight Attendant William Robinson, Captain Edward Hartzig III, Flight Attendant Melanie Lopez, and First Officer Robert Baker.

Mobile, AL – On Saturday, February 20, PSA Airlines participated in a Wings for Autism® event at Mobile Regional Airport (MOB). This event was held in partnership with The Arc of Clarke County, Mobile Arc, MOB, American Airlines and its regional partners Envoy Air and PSA Airlines, Autism Society of Alabama, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Doug Flutie Foundation.

Wings for Autism®, one of The Arc’s newest national initiatives, is an airport “rehearsal” specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their families and aviation professionals. Originated by the Charles River Center, a local chapter of The Arc in Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Port Authority, Wings for Autism® is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtain boarding passes, go through security, and board a plane.

Wings for Autism® also gives airport, airline, TSA professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact and deliver their services in a structured, learning environment. This experience is equally useful for families that have a member with other intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) that are concerned about the ability of their family member to travel.

Nearly 100 participants from the Mobile area benefited from this experience. Upon arrival, attendees checked in to receive their boarding pass, went through security, and were greeted at the gate prior to boarding the plane.

The flight was operated by PSA Captain Edward Hartzig III and First Officer Robert Baker, both MOB residents, and Instructor and Flight Attendant Melanie Lopez and Flight Attendant William Robinson.

“My favorite moment from the event was while passengers were deplaning, I heard a mother ask her special needs son, who was diagnosed with Autism, if he wanted to go on a real flight one day. He looked at her and said, ‘Yeah, mommy! I can do it!’, said Melanie Lopez, PSA Instructor and Flight Attendant. “To witness his anxiety, fear, and apprehension fade away was a life changing moment for him, his mother, and for myself. To know we made a difference in his life and that he trusts us and has the confidence he will be safe on an airplane was the real reward.”

To see pictures from the event, click here.

The Arc – The Arc advocates for and serves people with I/DD, including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.