The Secrets To Pulling A 99-Ton Airplane

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CHICAGO-Employees at credit unions everywhere are expected to pull their weight. But at Alliant CU, the job has also included pulling a 99-ton airplane. A group of 20 employees recently participated in a "plane pull" as part of a fundraiser. Below, Alliant's Joe McGowean, VP-marketing, offers additional details.

CU Journal: Please describe what the "Plane Pull" event is and how it works?
McGowean: The "Plane Pull" is an annual charity event held on the last Saturday in September at O'Hare International Airport to benefit Special Olympics Illinois. It is conducted by a fundraising organization comprised of law enforcement representatives throughout the state of Illinois. Nearly 30 teams of 20 participants from the Chicago area public safety, service and business communities competed in a tug-of-war style pull to see which team could move a 99-ton cargo jet 20 feet in the shortest time. A registration fee of $50 per person ($1,000 per team) is the primary fundraising method. Participants can solicit pledges from family, friends and neighbors, also. Since Alliant Credit Union employees volunteered their time and efforts for this worthy cause, Alliant Credit Union Foundation decided to cover their registration fees as a charitable donation to Special Olympics Illinois.

CUJ: Has Alliant CU participated before? How did you select participants?
McGowean: This was the second annual Plane Pull at O'Hare and the first with Alliant Credit Union involvement. An Alliant employee suggested participation to our Civic Affairs Committee. There was a lot of interest due to the unique, intriguing nature of the event. A "Team Sign-up" e-mail was sent to our Chicago area employees, with the first 20 respondents selected to the team. As an added incentive, the e-mail mentioned that all team members would get a custom event T-shirt provided by Civic Affairs.

CUJ: Can you share some strategy secrets? What works best in pulling a 99-ton plane?
McGowean: Interesting question. Some team members e-mailed each other with suggested pulling styles. A few of these were actually tested on an SUV during lunch breaks in our parking lot. It was determined that the over-the-shoulder approach, as seen on TV strongman competitions, was not efficient for a group pull. Instead, a traditional tug-of-war stance was used with participants facing the plane with legs braced. Team members lined up on either side of the pull rope, based on personal preference. Most, if not all, wore gloves. Some of the bigger, stronger team members were positioned closest to the plane in hopes that they could budge it, enabling inertia to take over.

Prior to our team's turn to pull, they received a confidence-building pep talk from an experienced competitor who said, "Don't worry. Just pull. You WILL get it moving."

CUJ: Plan to participate again? What have you learned? Are staff members looking for something else to pull?
McGowean: Participating in this event was a big hit in terms of employee engagement, enthusiasm and achievement. Although their completion time wasn't among the best, the Alliant team had a great feeling of accomplishment after pulling that 99-ton airplane 20 feet. Quite a feat, you might say...along with the warm feeling that comes with helping a charity like Special Olympics. The good word has spread to other employees and there's talk of fielding two Alliant teams for next year's event. Regarding technique, our team learned that by continually pulling together, they got the best results. Sounds like there's a pretty clear business analogy to that thought. Not sure of any talk of pulling anything else. Maybe we'll practice with a bus next year.

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