Textron Aviation Seeking Pilots, Aircraft for Special Olympics Airlift

Textron Aviation is launching its eighth Special Olympics Airlift, and is calling on owners and operators of Citation, King Air, Beechjet, Hawker and Premier aircraft to help transport more than 4,000 athletes with intellectual disability and coaches to the 2022 Special Olympics Games in Orlando.

The goal is to secure 228 aircraft by Feb. 28, 2022. So far, 75 Textron Aviation owners and operators have volunteered for the effort.

The company is highlighting the effort at NBAA-BACE in Las Vegas.

Athletes will arrive at Orlando Executive Airport on Saturday, June 4, 2022, for the games, held every four years, and will return to their home bases on Sunday, June 12.

On arrival day, aircraft will land every 90 sec. to 2 min., according to Stephanie Harder, Textron Aviation vice president of communications and public affairs. “It’s incredible to see.”

Former National Football League quarterback Peyton Manning is the honorary chairperson for the Airlift.

“Traveling to Orlando for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games may be the first time some of our athletes ever leave their hometown, let alone fly on an airplane,” says Tony Wyllie, regional president, Special Olympics North America. “The travel experience provided by Textron Aviation and its customers will be the ultimate bookends for one unforgettable week.”

Aircraft carrying Special Olympics athletes will receive a special designation call sign from the FAA, called Dove, which gives them priority over other traffic, Harder says. All are assigned the designation of Dove 1, Dove 2, and so on.

The last Special Olympics Airlift took place in 2014, directly following the merger between Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft, forming Textron Aviation.

For the athletes, transportation is the biggest expense of participating in the Games. Since the first Special Olympics Airlift in 1987, volunteers have flown nearly 10,000 athletes and their coaches from across the U.S. to the Games.

Owners and operators are needed in every state. In addition to aircraft, pilots, fuel and in-kind support are needed for the effort, the company says.

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.