The 737-800, ready to be pulled

The 737-800, ready to be pulled

Earlier this week, I was invited by Alaska Airlines to watch the Alaska Plane Pull for Strong Against Cancer at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The two competing teams were led by Russell Wilson, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and Alaska’s “Chief Football Officer,” and actor and comedian Joel McHale, who grew up on Mercer Island (right outside of Seattle) and is known for his role in the series “Community” and as host of E!’s “The Soup.”

Each celebrity captain had 18 team members, comprised of employees from Alaska’s maintenance and engineering departments, as well as members of the community who were the lucky winners of Alaska’s Facebook contest.

Who could pull a 92,000-pound 737-800 25 feet in the least amount of time? I was there to find out!

Team Russell huddles up to talk strategy during their practice pull

Team Russell huddles up to talk strategy during their practice pull

I got there early and had the opportunity to watch both teams warm up for what was clearly going to be a strenuous physical contest, requiring the utmost preparation and mental focus. And nothing says “it’s business time,” like matching purple sunglasses.

Russell Wilson tests out the rope before the event

Russell Wilson tests out the rope before the event

In the weeks leading up to the event, there was plenty of friendly Twitter trash talk between the two captains. Before they could settle it on the field (or, parking lot, if you want to get technical about it), emcees Chris Cashman and Fred Northup Jr. warmed up the crowd of cheering fans with The Wave and introduced the members of each team.

Judging by the cheers, the support for Team Russell and Team Joel seemed to be roughly equal. Alaska CEO Brad Tilden also offered his welcome and support for Strong Against Cancer.

Chris Cashman and Fred Northup Jr. warm up the crowd - Photo: Lauren Darnielle | AirlineReporter

Chris Cashman and Fred Northup Jr. warm up the crowd – Photo: Lauren Darnielle | AirlineReporter

The crowd also heard from cancer survivor Kat Tiscorina, who talked about her personal experience as a patient at Seattle Children’s Hospital. It seemed that every time she was in the hospital, she had just barely missed one of Russell Wilson’s frequent visits, and it turned into a running joke with her family. But she finally got to meet him at the Plane Pull (even got a hug), as she is thankfully no longer in the hospital.

Despite the trash talk, good sportsmanship was in evidence all around

Despite the trash talk, good sportsmanship was in evidence all around

Then it was time for some good old-fashioned plane pulling. Team Joel was up first. Once the pilots gave the thumbs up that the brakes were off, Team Joel gave it their best effort… but the plane barely budged — not a good start!

Team Russell was there to jump in and lend a helping hand (or 38). With both teams pulling together, they got it moving and across the 25-foot line in a little over one minute.

Both teams were needed to get the plane moving - Photo: Lauren Darnielle | AirlineReporter

Both teams were needed to get the plane moving – Photo: Lauren Darnielle | AirlineReporter

After resetting the plane to its original position, Team Russell stepped up to the rope to give it a solo try. They were able to pull it 25 feet in a very impressive 16.9 seconds. Wait… what?! How did that happen? Was Team Joel that bad?

Resetting the plane for the next round - Photo: Lauren Darnielle | AirlineReporter

Resetting the plane for the next round – Photo: Lauren Darnielle | AirlineReporter

Naturally, Team Joel felt that they didn’t quite get a fair shot, and wanted another chance to demonstrate their plane pulling prowess. They redeemed themselves with an excellent time of 15.6 seconds. However, the judges deemed that time unofficial (since it was a second try), and Team Russell was declared the winner, giving Wilson the coveted title of “2015 Plane Pull Champion.”

So what happened the first time for Team Joel? As it turned out, Alaska hadn’t anticipated how much the plane would settle on the ground after sitting for about two hours in the heat (yes, it can get warm in Seattle). So, by the time Team Joel made their first pull, it was difficult, but once the plane moved again, it was easier the second and third times.

Team Russell celebrates their victory - Photo: Lauren Darnielle | AirlineReporter

Team Russell celebrates their victory – Photo: Lauren Darnielle | AirlineReporter

Of course, the real winner was Strong Against Cancer, with the $30,490 raised by the event and the $175,000 donated by Alaska Airlines.

The Plane Pull was definitely a lot of fun to watch, and a great way to spend the morning at Boeing Field. With all of the charity events out there nowadays, it was nice to see something unique to draw attention and raise money for a worthy cause.

Want to help? You can still text “TEAMRUSSELL” or “TEAMJOEL” to 501501 to make a $10 donation.

Lauren took her first flight when she was less than a year old and has been an AvGeek for as long as she can remember. She lives in the Seattle area and loves flying all over the world visiting new cities and collecting (or redeeming) frequent flier miles.

http://www.airlinereporter.com/author/lauren
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4 Comments
JL Johnson

I led a team of 18 just a few months ago here in KC to benefit the Ronald McDonald house. We were up against a FedEx A310 and not where we outgunned. Our pull as well seemed flawed as the plane was pulled from three different positions and each team to pull from the first couldn’t budge it. That’s okay though, the real purpose is to support worthy causes and maybe a little spotting from the AOA.

JL | AirlineReporter

Cool! I don’t know how much help I would be in a plane pull, but it sure looked like fun.

And… an Extra round of thanks to Alaska Airlines! In addition to their $175k contribution, the provided the airplane AND Crew AND got it to BFI/MOF without quibble. Alaska has a long history of generosity within the communities that they serve and yes, they have earned our grateful appreciation. Thank you, Alaska Airlines!!
-C.
P.S. for JLJ…
You, like most of us understand the series of “V” speeds, V1, V2. V-m etc. Perhaps we’ve just invented another one… “Vh (1-10) indicating the speed a which a team of humans can move the airplane.

Yes, can’t underestimate the amount of coordination required behind the scenes to make everything go smoothly the day of!

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