Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Private jets to transport 2,500 Special Olympics athletes to Ames

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A massive airlift involving about 300 private business jets carrying 2,200 people from across the United States has been organized for the Special Olympics USA National Games at Iowa State University in July.

The effort will take about 8,000 volunteers on the ground, hundreds of corporate pilots and the cooperation of air traffic controllers at several Midwest airports.

Wichita, Kan.-based Cessna Aircraft Co. began helping the Special Olympics with transportation for the winter games in 1985 and has stepped in to help ever since. The company encourages buyers of its Citation jets to volunteer the aircraft for the event.

So far, 215 airplanes have been promised for this year's games, said Marilyn Richwine, a Cessna vice president. She believes another 100 companies will commit by this summer's event and invites others to sign up on the company's Web site. Many Iowa-based companies such as Lee Enterprises, Musco Lighting and Principal Financial Group are offering the use of their jets.

Companies absorb the cost of flying the athletes and their coaches, which could range from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the size of the jet and how far they fly, Richwine said.

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