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The Special Olympics Airlift EventText and photography courtesy of Textron Aviation
On June 4, more than 120 Textron Aviation aircraft departed from 28 states across the United States and landed at Orlando Executive Airport with Special Olympics athletes and coaches aboard. Participating aircraft, referred to as ‘Doves’ by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) while flying in the Airlift, had priority in the National Airspace System, and landed and took off every three minutes for about eight hours in Orlando, as they brought teams to participate in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
This is the eighth time Textron Aviation has convened the Special Olympics Airlift. Since the first airlift in 1987, more than 10,000 athletes and coaches from across the United States have been transported to Special Olympics World Games and USA Games. June 4 was the culmination of more than a year of planning by hundreds of individuals at Textron Aviation, Special Olympics, the FAA, Orlando Executive Airport, Atlantic Aviation and many of the event’s vendors and sponsors. More than 120 Cessna Citation, Beechjet and Hawker business jets, as well as Beechcraft King Air turboprop aircraft owners, donated the use of their aircraft, pilots and fuel to transport more than 800 passengers to the Games.
“This is an extraordinary experience for everyone involved and provides an impressive visual of the power of general aviation as well as the philanthropic side of the aviation industry,” said Ron Draper, president and CEO, Textron Aviation. “The ultimate mission of the Special Olympics Airlift is to make sure all the athletes who are invited to participate at the national level are able to get to the Games. Travel is the biggest expense for Special Olympics programs, and for many athletes this is their first time leaving their home state. Through this once-in-a-lifetime private aviation experience, they are able to travel with their teammates and their gear, and they arrive rested and ready to compete.” “We do this for the athletes," said Draper, “It’s special to provide them air transportation here – it’s really special to see the high fives and smiles.”
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