Plane Practice for Disabled Travelers

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Saturday evening, 26 families with special needs checked through security, waited at their gate and prepared to board a plane all for practice for the families and the flight crews.

“This is really beneficial for us to see whether he was capable of going on a long run or not,” said Phil Baehne, whose 11 year-old son, Luke, suffers from a brain injury and Autism.

Saturday, Luke was able to board an airplane for the first time, an experience that was needed before taking any trips to visit family across the country.

“My daughter lives in Ohio so we want to take a trip out there so we wanted to know if he could handle it or not, if he’d be okay,” said Baehne.

The event was a partnership between several agencies including Alaska Airlines and local non profit Families for Community. One of the event’s organizers, Dawn Watson, is the mother of an autistic son herself. She said she knows how beneficial this experience can be for families.

“Now I’m at a point where, I still need help with him and we still have questions but I’m at a point where I can start giving back to the community and other families,” said Watson.

The plane taxied around the runway as flight crews got valuable experience in assisting any special needs some passengers may have.

“For our front-line employees, it gives them the hands-on, front-line type experience that they do on a regular basis anyway but this gives them, it just adds to the magnitude,” said Horizon Air spokeswoman Jana Osborne.

As for Luke, his father says it was a positive experience all the way around, and a flight to Ohio could be in the future.

“He did really good, he stayed in his seat,” said Baehne. “He was curious but he was very calm about the whole thing and he went right up the ramp and no problem at all.”