The Liberty Gazette
June 24, 2014Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Every four years athletes and coaches pile into corporate jets and fly to their events in the Olympics. What? Are these sponsors hoping to sign endorsement deals with these top flight athletes? No! These are very special athletes going to a very special event, the Special Olympics. This year is the seventh time the Citation Special Olympics Airlift is transporting hundreds of participants to the games, held in Trenton, New Jersey.
What started out in 1985 when Cessna Aircraft Company transported the Kansas delegations to the Olympics in Salt Lake City in a couple airplanes has now grown to more than one hundred airplanes transporting from 800 to 2000 Olympiads. After that first year many of Cessna’s customers asked to be included in the next Olympics and the Airlift was formed. Since Cessna’s parent company Textron bought Beechcraft last year, King Air owners and operators are also participating. Many Texas companies are among those donating their aircraft, crews and fuel.
This year’s 100-plus plane Airlift was coordinated extensively with the FAA, the 28 departure airports in 22 states and the Trenton-Mercer Airport where on June 14th an aircraft was landing or departing every two minutes. The planes were scheduled to return June 21 to take all the winners back home.
Several aviation organizations participate in or support charitable activities. Our Sport Air Racing League will have the great privilege of using our race to support Down Syndrome Indiana in the upcoming Indy Air Race (August 9, Indianapolis) and there are Challenge Air events around the country flying hundreds of severely handicapped "heroes" every year.
Linda: To families with loved ones living with Autism or Down Syndrome the thought of airplanes and airports is daunting. Huge strides are being made to help these special people handle busy airports, and reduce their confusion and fears.
The Dublin Airport, the main airport for the country of Ireland, has earned its reputation as the standard for passengers with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Helping them and their families handle the experience of traveling to and through an airport and the experience of flying has earned the airport great respect. For people with ASD, change is usually difficult so preparation is a major key to success in new adventures. To this end, the airport authority worked with Irish Autism Action to build a page on the airport website dedicated to helping individuals with ASD.
Families can now download visual guides with pictures and explanations of what the experience will be like and why they will go through it. This is a tremendous step forward. Families are creating journey books to prepare for their trips, helping their loved ones with ASD to become familiar with check-in gates, security check points, busyness and noise.
Thanks to a customer service manager at the Dublin Airport, Helen O’Connor, as word spreads this service is helping many families, even beyond the Dublin Airport. She offers well thought-out yet simple strategies to ASD families. Familiarity practice includes describing the situation or event, the possible or expected perspective of the person with ASD – meaning how they may feel about it – and providing clear direction as to how they should respond or behave in the given situation.
Of the many things we love about flying the aviation community is at the top of the list, and the dedication and compassion often demonstrated make us proud to be members.