Monday, September 8, 2008

Tugging plane at Bishop Airport is tough...

OK, all together, pull: Teams find tugging plane at Bishop Airport is tough, but worthwhile for Girl Scouts

Posted by Elizabeth Shaw The Flint Journal September 06, 2008 15:03PM

FLINT, Michigan -- Obviously, this was one FedEx plane that didn't have to absolutely, positively get anywhere on time.

Throughout the day Saturday, more than a dozen teams manned the ropes to pull the 155,000-pound Boeing 727 (plus a brake man inside) along the new cargo ramp at Bishop Airport, to raise funds for the Girl Scouts Fairwinds Council, which serves about 9,200 girls ages 6 - 17 in Genesee County.

The 20-member teams -- made up of everyone from pizza makers to office workers -- competed to pull the FedEx cargo carrier a distance of 12 feet in the fastest time. Awards were also given for teams completing the task with the lightest weight and most spirit.

"It's a whole lot more fun than loading and unloading the planes," joked FedEx materials handler Tiffany Mayers, who had volunteered to man the official time clock for the event.

The pull almost didn't get off to a start at all, after the ceremonial team of Fairwinds officials and team leaders failed to budge the jet in two tries.

It turned out the plane's wheels had caught on a slight incline.

"You have a crooked airport! Fix that for us next time, would ya?" joked Fairwinds board member Pat Klein. "I was afraid we'd all fall on our butts, we were leaning back so far. I'm just glad to find out it wasn't just that we were too weak."

While airport workers moved the plane into better position for the competition, teams of kids went to work at the opposite end of the cargo field, where five girls from Fenton Troop 1991 hauled a 2,250-pound Cessna in 4.75 seconds.

Not to be outdone, two Dryden scout teams dragged a 5,000-pound World War II trainer.
The 17-year-old FedEx plane pull travels the country helping various nonprofits raise funds. The 12-feet 20-people formula was worked out through careful engineering analysis, said FedEx airshow coordinator Deb Smith.

"But you'll definitely know you pulled it the next day. You'll be a little sore," said Smith, laughing.

The average time is 6-7 seconds, she said, although one Ironman competitor pulled it by himself in less than three minutes several years ago.

"It was a lot easier than we thought -- especially with all the lightweights we had on our team," said Randy King, a salesman for Koegel's who helped set the pace with the day's first registered time at 7.528 seconds.

They were outdone a few minutes later by a team from Baker College, who hit the finish line at 5.826 seconds.

"Our strategy? Pull," said Baker online bookstore employee Adam Mikolajczak. "Pull hard."

The largest share of the day's proceeds were raised by entry fees, with each 20-member team raising at least $1,000 from individual fundraising efforts and pledges. The prizes were trophies topped with a replica FedEx jet, and bragging rights until next year's competition.

"We're hoping the event will have raised $15,000 to $20,000 for all the things we do," said Fairwinds fund development director Teresa Vaughn, citing special programs for inner city youth, foster children, detention center residents and others who might otherwise be unable to enjoy Scouting.

"I hope we can make this an annual event. It might not beat cookie sales, but we can always tell people to get their nutrition from their Thin Mints to pull the plane next year."

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