Leading the fleet at June’s Textron Aviation Special Olympics Airlift will be a Cessna Citation XLS+ operated by Coca-Cola Consolidated, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based bottler and distributor. The Citation will bear the callsign “Dove 1,” the first of at least 175 aircraft to touch down in Orlando, Florida, as part of one of the longest-running humanitarian business aviation efforts.
The Dove callsigns ensure priority treatment from air traffic controllers as flights from all across North America bring athletes and coaches to the Special Olympics USA Games. Following arrival day in Florida on Saturday, June 4, the mission reverses to bring the more than 1,000 competitors back home on Sunday, June 12, though flight planners will need to adjust for the increased payload of medals won by the athletes.
Lannie O’Bannion, Textron Aviation senior VP of sales & flight operations, said, “Coca-Cola Consolidated is an ideal customer to serve as Dove 1, representing the nearly 175 aircraft owners who have stepped up to give these Special Olympics athletes an unforgettable lift to the USA Games. An aircraft will take off or land approximately every two minutes during the Airlift. It is truly a team effort that starts with the generosity of our Citation, Beechcraft and Hawker customers.”
According to Textron Aviation, “Travel is the largest expense for Special Olympics Programs, and the Airlift helps offset these costs by allowing athletes to travel to the games hassle-free with their gear and teammates.”
The Textron Aviation Special Olympics Airlift began with the games in 1987, and since that first event, close to 10,000 athletes and coaches from across the United States have been transported to Special Olympics USA and World Games competitions.