“There are a growing number
of families and travelers across
the U.S. who are in some way
impacted by autism. As these
numbers continue to expand,
airports should be prepared
to address their unique
needs. Wings for Autism is an
excellent educational program
and the first step toward
achieving that objective.”
—Mark P. Brewer, A.A.E., Airport Director
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport
agencies and airports throughout the country to
work locally on their projects.
The third critical component is an effective
partner in TSA. The security screening process
can be a daunting experience for families with
autistic children, so it is imperative that there
be active TSA participation and involvement.
In Manchester, we are very fortunate to have a
great working relationship with the local TSA.
Stakeholder Manager Dave Eastman is a valued
partner who helps to coordinate all of the one-on-one family tours, which we continue to offer,
and was an integral part in the development
and implementation of the first MHT event. In
fact, Dave accompanied me to Boston to attend
the Massport/CRC Wings for Autism Workshop.
The workshop was enlightening to say the least,
especially the stories and experiences that were
related by some of the families in attendance.
Driving back to Manchester, we discussed the
program and agreed that it was time to bring it to
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. But, there
was still one major hurdle to overcome — we
needed an airplane.
The fourth, and most critical, component neces-
sary to make a Wings for Autism event a reality is an
airline partner. In order to simulate an actual flight
experience, an airplane and flight crew is essential.
Enter Tom Labrie, station manager for Southwest,
MHT’s largest air carrier. We briefly had discussed
the possibility of hosting a Wings for Autism event
in Manchester and realized the flight schedule
would make aircraft availability a challenge. When
Southwest released MHT’s fall 2012 schedule, the
carrier indicated that one airplane would be on
the ground for
hours — more than
enough time to host
an event. Labrie
network planning department in Dallas and request-
ed that the proposed schedule not be altered so the
airplane could be utilized for MHT’s first Wings for
Autism event. Soon after he made the request, Labrie
walked into the airport administrative offices and
emphatically stated, “We have an airplane.” The
final piece of the puzzle was in place.
Airport: Promote the event in the press and on
your website and link to the CRC; provide signs
and/or banners (not a necessity but we elected
to post signs with the Wings for Autism logo to
ease any anxieties and make everyone feel welcome); coordinate and validate parking; communicate with other airport service providers and
tenants to make them aware of the event; coor-