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Mighty 97th tanker gets towed by mighty man

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kenneth W. Norman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
"We have the first officially sanctioned U.S. Air Force active duty jet to be pulled by a strongman in history," said Tech. Sgt. Phil Landram, 54th Air Refueling Squadron chief of scheduling.

During the Battle Creek Air Show and Balloon Festival July 1-4 in Battle Creek, Mich., Strongman Mark Kirsch made history by being the first Strongman to pull an active duty United States Air Force jet when he pulled the 140,000 pound, KC-135 Stratotanker from Altus AFB, a total of five times during the air show.

"When you say 'Battle Creek,' I'll say, 'Yeah, that's the first ever United States Air Force airplane [pull],'" Kirsch said in an interview with the Battle Creek Enquirer.

At least four months of planning made this event possible. Kirsch was originally supposed to pull a different airplane but it was cancelled. During Kirsch's pulls, Capt. Adam Travis, 54th ARS assistant flight commander, worked the braking system on the KC-135 to stop the plane's momentum after the pull.

"It was crazy watching this guy pull the plane. At one point during one of his pulls he dropped the rope and started running and the plane started accelerating - it scared the tar out of me - it was awesome," Travis said.

During the air show groups with special needs were brought out to the aircraft for a front row seat to watch Kirsch's display of strength.

Kirsch did not always have the body of a Strongman. In high school he was too skinny to play football. When Kirsch first began training he was 6'4, 170 pounds, but now he is tipping the scale at 310 pounds, according to an article by the Battle Creek Enquirer. Kirsch idolized bodybuilders, but didn't want to use steroids or supplements to bulk up. He took the hard road and went all natural.

"You've got to train a hundred times harder than someone who's probably cheating," Kirsch said during his interview with the Battle Creek Enquirer. "Because you have to do more workouts, you have to lift heavier and longer, stress every fiber."

"He is huge. We went to dinner with him one night and he must have had seven or eight plates of salmon. He is all natural, he just eats well and he doesn't take any extra supplements," Travis and Landram said.

Kirsch holds the record for the largest plane pull ever, pulling a 205,000-pound Boeing 767 in 2008.
Inspired by Bob Hope, Kirsch is hoping to get booked for military air shows to give back to the troops. He is preparing to pull a C-130 aircraft at the 9/11 remembrance ceremony in New York City, September 11, 2011.

Although most of the attention was on the Altus KC-135 being pulled by Kirsch, the primary mission for the 54th ARS, KC-135 demonstration team, was to provide air refueling support for the Blue Angels, who were the main event of the air show.

"The real reason we went there was to give the Blue Angels refueling support," Travis said.

The Blue Angels do not have constant refueling support, so without the support of another unit they would not have been able to fly.

They told us that the tanker saved this opportunity for them, Landram said.

The 54th ARS, KC-135 demonstration team is the only KC-135 demonstration team in the Air Force.