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Olympic Flame Will Get First Class Treatment on Flight From Greece

April 8, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Delta Air Lines is giving the Olympic flame first-class treatment.

The Atlanta-based airline will transport the flame from Athens, Greece, to Los Angeles in a new MD-11 specially painted in a rainbow of 14 colors. It will be encased in a safety lantern secured by brackets attached to an interior wall of the plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration had to give special approval for the procedure.

A special contingent will monitor the flame, making sure it stays lit during the 7,000-mile flight to Los Angeles, where the U.S. leg of the torch relay begins April 27. There will be a backup lantern, just in case.

The rainbow colors on the plane required 194 gallons of paint.

``It’s the most complicated painting job for an MD-11 we’ve had,″ said Warren Lamb, a spokesman for the Douglas Aircraft division of McDonnell Douglas, which manufactured the plane. It took two around-the-clock shifts 10 days to apply the paint to Delta’s largest passenger jet.

The paint job on ``The Centennial Spirit,″ which was to be officially unveiled today at Douglas Aircraft’s plant in Long Beach, Calif., was more time consuming than usual because of the complex design and the number of colors _ nearly five times as many as normal, Lamb said.

``It’s a flying billboard,″ said Terence Burns, Delta’s Olympic program director. ``From a promotional standpoint, this is the largest tangible presence of our physical marketing program for the Games.″

It’s only the second time Delta has painted a plane in Olympic colors. The first one, ``The Spirit of Delta,″ is in domestic service. The new plane will carry international passengers after returning to Atlanta following the flame’s delivery.

Before it goes into service, Delta workers will paint the plane’s name followed by ``Athens 1896 _ Atlanta 1996.″ They also will add a plaque telling passengers of the aircraft’s significance to the torch relay.

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