At 8 p.m. Saturday, Southwest Airlines Flight 2149 was poised to push back from the gate. Flight attendants gave fasten-seat-belt instructions, and First Officer Peter Hayes announced, “There’s 25 minutes of flight time until we touch down in Philadelphia.”
Capt. Todd Siems said the Boeing airliner was cruising at 37,000 feet. And after he turned off the seat-belt sign, the young passengers were served complimentary Sprite, cranberry-apple juice, and airplane-shaped crackers.
Flight 2149 never left the gate at Philadelphia International Airport, though. It was no ordinary flight, but rather a practice for children with autism and their families to become familiar with travel at the airport – bags, getting boarding passes, going through security, waiting at the gate, and sitting on the plane to experience the lights and sounds.