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Business Jet Flies Injured Veterans for Free
November 16, 2011
A uniquely painted business jet called the “American Patriot” has been designated by the Cessna Aircraft Company to provide free transportation for severely wounded U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
The Cessna-provided Mustang business jet made its inaugural flight last week, carrying wounded veterans Bobby Henline and Matthew Miles from San Antonio, TX to ceremonies honoring them in Pinehurst, NC.
Cessna officials said the specially painted jet and Cessna demonstration pilots would be dedicated to such mercy missions, working with the all-volunteer Veterans Airlift Command (VAC), which coordinates free business airplane transportation for veterans through its network of aircraft owners. Since its founding in 2006, VAC has coordinated flights for more than 4,500 wounded veterans and their families, logging more than 2.5 million miles.
Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Henline was injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Iraq in 2007. Miles, a U.S. Army sergeant first class, also suffered an IED attack the same year, losing his left leg and sustaining severe lacerations and hand injuries. The two were honored by VAC on Veterans Day in Pinehurst as representatives of all American servicemen and -women who have been wounded in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts.
The “American Patriot” business jet in its red, white and blue paint scheme was first unveiled last month at NBAA2011, the Association’s 64th Annual Meeting & Convention, in Las Vegas. On each side of the jet, the “Patriot Defender” character holds a shield featuring the four branches of the Armed Forces as a large American flag unfurls along the side of the aircraft.
“Our commitment of the ‘American Patriot’… allows us to… give back to our wounded warriors,” said Scott Ernest, Cessna president and CEO.
Cessna has long supported humanitarian initiatives, including multi-year sponsorship of the Citation Special Olympics Airlift, for which owners of Citation business airplanes volunteer to fly Special Olympics competitors from their homes to the Special Olympics site. In 2010, more than 160 companies participated, transporting over 800 athletes and their coaches to the Lincoln, NE site of the Special Olympics.
Also at NBAA2011, an anonymous donor provided VAC with an Eclipse 500 business jet to be used for the organization’s mission. At the same time, Eclipse Aerospace Company CEO and Chairman Mason Holland announced that the company would match 100 percent of the donations raised through a VAC capital campaign for servicing the aircraft. Pilots who are type-rated in the Eclipse 500 will be donating their time to fly VAC missions.
“[These donations] are further proof that the aviation community is made up of great Americans whose generosity knows no bounds,” said Walter Fricke, VAC founder.