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As Athletes Head Home, RDU a Bustling Place To Be

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RDU INTERNATIONAL — On a typical day, 850 planes take off and land atRDU International. That number doubled Monday asSpecial Olympics World Gamesathletes head home -- to homes around the world.

Twenty thousand pieces of luggage are going home with more than 10,000 athletes, coaches and families. Volunteers have been working since late Sunday night to make sure the bags get on the right planes. The workers in the baggage area call it "organized chaos."

Inside the terminal, holiday travelers and coaches expected chaos but were pleasantly surprised.

Other travelers said they had been worried about parking availability and getting to their flights on time. But reality proved to be no problem, and things were functioning smoothly.

Just about every commercial flight going out is filled to capacity.

Another 2,000 athletes are leaving just as they arrived -- on privately donated planes. Phase two of theCessna Citation Special Olympics Airliftis under way with 272 of the planes taking off every two to three minutes for several hours.

Things were busy at noon, but the real test came later in the day.

"We've got a heavy outbound flow of international athletes. We have some really heavy banks of international commercial flights that leave this afternoon, and we are expecting the Citation traffic to pick up this afternoon taking the athletes home," said RDU spokesman Mike Blanton.

Airport officials say the fact that Monday was a holiday helped accommodate the athletes and holiday travelers. Business travel, normally heavy in the morning and evening hours, was light.

Travelers were still advised to arrive two hours in advance, because the check-in counters were busy throughout the day.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Mark Copeland, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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