The Airlift's official fuel provider, Phillips 66 Aviation, was there in force, with a fleet of six refuelers, gifts for the pilots and welcoming hospitality, plus colorful backpacks and heartfelt cheers for what are some of America's most amazing athletes.
From June 14-21, the nation was introduced to more than 3,500 inspirational athletes who shattered perceptions and celebrated the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. The athletes competed in 16 different sports competitions, supported by 1,000 coaches and 10,000 volunteers.
Hundreds of those athletes were flown in on Citation jets and a couple of King Airs to cheering crowds and a large host of volunteers handling the complex logistics of line and fueling operations, athlete luggage, ground transportation and pilot hospitality at Ronson Aviation, which hosted the event flawlessly.
On the sun-drenched ramps, volunteers and Ronson line technicians hustled to handle flight arrivals and departures – seamlessly going off every two minutes – for two Saturdays in a row. The busy scene with lines of Citations, a convoy of tugs and crews working the ramp was reflected off shiny Phillips 66 Aviation refueling trucks strategically situated to get aircraft in and out quickly. Ronson Aviation, says General Manager Walcott Blair, brought in numerous additional line crew members and customer service reps to handle the unusually large traffic.
On FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) radar monitors in the pilots' hospitality tent, aircraft carrying Special Olympians were designated as "Dove Flights," with air traffic control priority nationwide over business aviation and commercial flights.
Phillips 66 Aviation handed out t-shirts, flashlights and WingPoints® gift cards to appreciative pilots, while working with Ronson to ensure the fixed base operator had plenty of fuel.
Of course, the real stars were the athletes who overcame great challenges to compete in the Special Olympics. For many, the Citation flights were their first rides in an aircraft. Their incredible stories and broad smiles put everything into perspective during the Airlift.