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Cessna Launches Seventh Citation Olympics Airlift at NBAA2012

November 1, 2012

For the seventh time, Cessna Aircraft Company is asking owners and operators of its Citation business jets to participate in the company’s Citation Special Olympics Airlift, a coordinated program to fly more than 800 athletes and their coaches to the 2014 Games, which are scheduled for June in Princeton and Mercer County, NJ. Cessna made the announcement on Oct. 29 at NBAA2012 in Orlando, FL.

“For many of our customers, Citation jets are critical business tools,” said Rhonda Fullerton, Cessna’s Citation Special Olympics Airlift director. “The fact that so many owners volunteer such a valuable asset so these young special athletes can compete is pretty special in itself.”

First to volunteer for the 2014 Airlift was Whelen Engineering of Chester, CT, which makes a variety of warning systems for police, fire and rescue services, railroads, marine and aviation purposes. The company started in 1952 with the invention of the red rotating beacon that was long standard for aircraft.

“We love the idea of helping the special athletes,” said Jim Olson, corporate vice president for Whelen Engineering Aviation. “Our Citation is critical for our business. Both our president and owner often say we wouldn’t be as successful without it. But making it available to these kids for Special Olympic events is icing on the cake.”

Cessna Senior Vice President of Marketing Roxanne Bernstein said that on the days when athletes, coaches and sponsors will be arriving and departing the games, volunteered Cessna Citations will be taking off and landing every two minutes. She said that Cessna launched the airlift in 1987 for the Special Olympics in South Bend, IN, and Citation owners have since provided air transportation for almost 8,000 athletes and their coaches.

“Some of the special athletes and coaches can’t otherwise afford the travel, or they have disabilities that limit their ability to ride for hours in a car or other transportation,” said Fullerton. She cited 32-year-old Cory, a Special Olympian who first rode with an Airlift volunteer from his Florida home to the Special Olympics in Raleigh-Durham, NC in 1999.

“Without the generosity of these businesses and pilots, I probably wouldn’t have been able to come at all,” said Cory, who attended NBAA2012 to help Cessna publicize the value of the airlift. “It’s a great experience.”

President and Managing Director of Special Olympics North America Bob Gobrecht agreed. “The Citation Special Olympics Airlift is one of the most spectacular traditions of our national games,” he said. “The generosity of Cessna, their industry partners and the Citation owners not only provides… a much needed solution to the costs associated with transporting delegations but also gives our athletes a once-in-a-lifetime aviation experience.”

Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and has grown from a few hundred athletes in 1968 to nearly four million today. The movement delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 53,000 competitions throughout the year worldwide. For the 2014 Games, which will be held June 14 through June 21, athletes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia will compete in 17 sports, appearing before an estimated 60,000 spectators.

Registration for the Citation Special Olympics Airlift is available exclusively online at