We need you - Aircraft still needed for specific Airlift departure points

While registration for the 2022 Special Olympics Airlift closed at the end of February, we have had several aircraft cancel due to unforeseen circumstances. Textron Aviation has already committed to the state delegations where those aircraft were based, so we need to find replacement aircraft to provide transportation for these athletes .

Among the states we need owners and operators to donate the use of aircraft, pilots and fuel: Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Travel is the largest expense for Special Olympics state programs, and the Airlift helps offset these costs by allowing athletes to travel to the games hassle-free with their gear and teammates. The Airlift will take athletes and coaches to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando on Saturday, June 4, and return them to their home bases on Sunday, June 12.

Textron Aviation, with assistance from owners and operators, industry partners and employee volunteers, is organizing and coordinating the eighth Special Olympics Airlift. This is the first time HAWKER jet and BEECHCRAFT turboprop aircraft will participate alongside CESSNA CITATION jets for the event. Since the first Airlift in 1987, nearly 10,000 athletes and coaches from across the United States have been transported to Special Olympics World Games and USA Games.

“Our athletes are at the core of everything we do, they are our inspiration,” said Joe Dzaluk, President & CEO, 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. “The most important thing is that they have the most amazing, life-changing experience at the 2022 USA Games. The Airlift program and experience it delivers is integral in making this happen.”

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Priority handling: Pilots and athletes have FAA support throughout Airlift

Many details go into making the Special Olympics Airlift run smoothly and at the top of the list is priority handling from the FAA. Precise flight planning leads to safe, organized ramp flow.

“The only way that we can pull of an Airlift of this size is by having every movement orchestrated,” said Shannon Peterson, a regional sales director for Textron Aviation and one of the lead coordinators of the flight operations portion of the Airlift.

The key to that orchestration is working closely with the FAA to create a roster of precise aircraft departure times from airports around the country and to identify specific, prioritized airways for Airlift participants. Each aircraft receives a special Dove call sign that will afford priority treatment in the air traffic system, so the massive Airlift stays on schedule on both transport days – Saturday, June 4, delivering the athletes to Orlando, Florida, and Sunday, June 12, returning the athletes to their home bases.

“The day of the Airlift, our Doves will receive priority in the National Airspace System barring any unforeseen events,” Peterson said. “The FAA briefs National Airspace System stakeholders on the event and its priority.”

The groundwork that leads to sequencing a fleet of more than 150 aircraft consisting of Cessna Citation jets, Beechcraft KING AIR turboprops, Beechcraft Premier jets, Beechcraft Beechjet and Hawker aircraft started about 18 months ago. A small group scouted the area where the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games were to take place to find a local airport authority that could safely support the Airlift’s unique influx of airplanes, baggage and people.

Once Orlando Executive Airport was selected, the logistics team expanded to include local and national FAA offices, air traffic control, Atlantic Aviation Flying Services, representatives from airport administration and others.

Once participating aircraft were identified this spring, departure airports were set and the information was given to the FAA for routing into Orlando. In May, pilots will receive a package with their Dove call sign and all the information they need to participate, such as a detailed briefing of their routing to file, a complete passenger manifest, a fuel/no fuel card that will allow aircraft marshals in Orlando to know where to direct an aircraft and instructions on arriving and departing ORL.

“This is such an orchestrated event that from the minute they land until they take off again, we plan for them to be on the ground for no more than 60 minutes,” Peterson said.

Meet Dove 1: Coca-Cola Consolidated, Inc.

Longtime customer and Special Olympics supporter Coca-Cola Consolidated, Inc., the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the United States, will be the first aircraft to land at Orlando Executive Airport on Saturday, June 4, as part of the eighth Special Olympics Airlift. As the first aircraft to land, Coca-Cola Consolidated will receive the special “Dove 1” call sign.

This will be the fourth Airlift for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company. Coca-Cola Consolidated first participated in the 2006 event with its new Cessna Citation Excel jet. This year, athletes will fly in the company’s Cessna Citation XLS+ jet.

“It’s an enormous honor for Coca-Cola Consolidated to be named Dove 1 in the Special Olympics Airlift,” said Kimberly Kuo, senior vice president of Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Consolidated, Inc. “Our involvement with the Airlift supports our Purpose and Values — which include a deep commitment to serving others. We feel blessed to be leading this convoy of aircraft to deliver Special Olympics athletes to the USA Games.”

Click the button below to watch North Carolina athlete Kelsey meet the Coca-Cola Consolidated team and see her lift to the games for the first time.

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Get to know Orlando Executive Airport

Putting on an event the size of the Special Olympics Airlift requires completely transforming an airport’s ramp for arrival and departure days. That’s why buy-in from the local airport administration is as important as having modern services and infrastructure and a convenient location.

Operated by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Orlando Executive Airport (KORL) offers dedicated space for the Airlift, a central location and a long list of amenities including two paved runways (6,004 feet and 4,625 feet) and an FAA staffed control tower. Two fixed-base operators provide 24-hour service, including Special Olympics Airlift partner Atlantic Aviation. The airport’s administration and the team at Atlantic Aviation are fully involved with Airlift planning efforts, as are on-airport law enforcement, rescue, firefighting and paramedic services and other local agencies.

KORL is the primary general aviation facility for Central Florida and the designated reliever airport for Orlando International Airport. The airport is well known to the business aviation community, having hosted the static aircraft display for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention & Exhibition 12 times in the past 26 years, including the 2022 event scheduled for October.