This year the Special Olympics will descend on Lincoln, Nebraska. The festivities will begin on Sunday July, 18th. The games will continue through next Saturday July 24th. This is gonna be a very exciting time for the city in which I live. Over 19,000 people will arrive, including coaches and officials, participants, families and friends. As our governor, Dave Heineman said in a pre-games news conference “This is a big deal”.
Of particular highlight to me, is gonna be how a good deal of the participants are to arrive. Over 800 athletes and their families will come to Lincoln by air. In a program called the Cessna Citation Special Olympics airlift, they are flown in by private jet to our airport for the games. This year’s honorary chair Harrison Ford is even personally flying New Mexico’s team here for the event. Cessna has been coordinating this aspect of the Special Olympics for about 25 years now. How it works is a call is put out for private owners of Cessna jet aircraft to donate their planes, and time to transport the teams here to Lincoln, and then to return to take them back home. The goal for this year’s games was to have the largest airlift ever, with 325 planes. Unfortunately, the planning process for this occurred within some of the worst economic times this country has seen in over 50 years, and the number of planes participating is roughly half that at 165. This is still a mighty armada of aircraft that are coming in from all over the country, and will be quite exciting to watch.
The buzz of planes began today at about 7am, and is expected to continue through about 4:30pm. I have a very unique perch here at my home. I live on a hill that overlooks the main runway of our airport roughly five miles away or so. Local news sources tell us that aircraft will be landing every two minutes or so at times. There is gonna be so much traffic coming in that a portable control tower has been brought in to help the main tower out here. The logistics of this combined with the regular commercial and military flight traffic is pretty mind-boggling.
I have to say I am very proud my city is hosting the event this year. I am even happier to see that even in trying times, there are many companies and private individuals out there that will spare the cost, time, and ability to make such an airlift possible.