More than 250 Textron Aviation volunteers, elected officials and dignataries in Wichita turned out Saturday to send off 17 Kansas Special Olympic athletes and their coaches to the week-long USA Games in New Jersey.
The athletes took part in the Citation Special Olympics Airlift, in which Citation owners and operators donate their airplanes, pilots and fuel to transport the athletes and coaches to the games.
For the first time in its 27-year history, the Airlift included Beechcraft owners along with Cessna Citation owners.
In all, more than 100 owners and operators from around the country transported roughly 700 athletes and their coaches to the competition.
The planes will return to Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey on June 21 to take the athletes home after the event.
The Airlift, the seventh of its kind, is sponsored and managed by Cessna Aircraft, now a division of Textron Aviation.
The Citation Special Olympics Airlift is the culmination of two years of planning by Cessna and the Federal Aviation Administration, Trenton-Mercer Airport, partnering aviation companies around the country and volunteers from Trenton businesses and the Special Olympics organization, according to Textron Aviation.
Since it began in 1987, the event has transported nearly 10,000 athletes and coaches to the Games from around the U.S.