The first and second weekends in July were busy ones for the pilots of Cessna business jets as the crews transported some 1,800 athletes to and from the Special Olympics U.S. National Games held in Ames, Iowa, July 2-7. The owners of the aircraft volunteered their services.
Some 237 Cessna Citation business jets took part in the airlift. According to Cessna company officials, during 12-hour arrival and departure windows, a Citation was landing or taking off at the Des Moines International Airport (DSM) every 90 seconds or so.
The jets came from 28 states and 39 departure points across the nation.
“The wonderful experience the athletes have riding on a business jet is incalculable,” said Priscilla Dowse, executive director of the Special Olympics Wyoming delegation. “In addition, our expenses for the 2006 National Games have been cut in half through the generosity of Citation owners.
By providing this service, more athletes could participate in the national games, allowing us to expand our state program.”
According to Jack Pelton, Cessna’s chairman, president and CEO, the airlift was the result of more than a year and a half of planning and the cooperative efforts of personnel at Cessna, the FAA, the Des Moines International Airport, fixed-base operators and volunteers from the Des Moines business community and the Special Olympics organization.
“Without each of these groups donating time and resources, we would never be able to stage this type of event,” he said. “All this work leads up to that moment when a Citation door opens and an athlete steps out smiling from ear to ear.
They are excited, not only because they are about to compete in events they’ve been practicing for months, but also for many athletes this will be their first airplane ride — and having that first ride on a Citation business jet is an exhilarating experience.”
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