Cessna Aircraft Co. is organizing its seventh Citation Special Olympics Airlift (CSOA), which involves enlisting Citation jet owners to transport Special Olympics athletes and coaches from across the nation to the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.
Next year’s games will be held from June 14-21 in New Jersey in the Greater Princeton/Mercer County area.
The first CSOA in 1987 involved more than 130 Cessna Citation jets carrying nearly 1,000 athletes to and from South Bend, Ind., while the most recent airlift in 2010 involved 161 Citation owners transporting 832 athletes and coaches to Lincoln, Neb. It has been called the largest peacetime airlift in the world, as a Citation business jet will land or takeoff every two minutes for 10 hours at Trenton Mercer Airport (TTN).
Rhonda Fullerton, Cessna director of the CSOA, said: “Over the past six airlifts, Citation owners have contributed millions of dollars to the Special Olympics USA Games by way of donations of time, fuel, and resources. It is gratifying to organize this campaign, being able to provide a cost savings to the games while at the same time giving 1,000 athletes and coaches the flight of a lifetime, and to be part of a week they will never forget.”
Bob Gobrecht, president of Special Olympics North America, said: “The Citation Special Olympics Airlift provides a crucial cost savings to our programs. By not having to expend funds for commercial transportation, our programs can devote every possible cent toward sending as many athletes as possible to the 2014 USA Games.”
Special Olympics programming, from local to state to national and international, is offered at no cost to the participating athlete or their families. Training, facilities uniforms, transportation, meals and more are all paid for by Special Olympics.
“The airlift provides a rare opportunity for Special Olympics athletes, and for the Citation volunteers. Many athletes have never flown on a plane of any kind, and many have never even left their home state. To have the personalized attention and support of Citation owners and pilots provides tremendous comfort and assistance to our delegations,” said Gobrecht.
The 2014 Special Olympics USA Games bring nearly 3,500 athletes from all 50 states to compete in 16 Olympic-style competitions.
The CSOA has a goal of recruiting 175 Citation owners to support the transportation of 800 of these athletes to and from Trenton Mercer Airport (TTN). On average, the CSOA volunteers transport one-third of the participating athletes to the Games. To date, Cessna has recruited 26 companies to volunteer for the airlift.
Those interested in enrolling to help should go to Cessnaairlift.com or contact Rhonda Fullerton, Cessna director of the Citation Special Olympics Airlift, at 316-517- LIFT or at firstname.lastname@example.org.