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Strongman to ‘pull for the troops’ at McConnell open house

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2012, at 8:39 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at 11:43 p.m.

If you go:

Wings Over McConnell

Special performances for the open house and air show include the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Army Golden Knights parachute team. About 150,000 people are expected.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: McConnell Air Force Base, Rock Road near 31st Street South. Entrances are at the intersections of Rock and Kansas and at George Washington and Salina.

How much: Free

For more details, including schedule of events and parking information, go to www.mcconnellairshow.com.

Last year, Seattle strongman Mark Kirsch pulled 10 million pounds of aircraft: Air Force refueling tankers, cargo planes and jumbo jets.

“That’s a lot of weight,” he said with a wide grin.

And he does it with his body to honor America’s military men and women.

Kirsch’s act, “Pulls for the Troops,” is part of the Wings Over McConnell Open House and Air Show, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.

He will perform both days at 11 a.m.

But don’t be late. The entire feat takes just over a minute.

“Most celebrities and entertainers need to thank our military service men and women that do protect our country,” Kirsch said Wednesday, a bit winded after beating his personal best record by pulling a KC-135 Stratotanker about 120 feet on the McConnell flightline.

“This is my way to pull for the troops.”

A self-described “skinny” kid in high school, Kirsch said that after he decided to bulk up, he got the idea to pull a fire truck. That was seven years ago.

His first airplane-pulling feat was heaving a Boeing 767.

“It was probably too big, but I set a world record,” he said.

Now he performs nationwide and worldwide.

And his 6-foot-4-inch frame packs 320 pounds of strength.

The KC-135 he will pull this weekend weighs about 152,000 pounds, including 30,000 pounds of fuel, Kirsch said.

To pull the plane, he straps a harness to his chest, then fastens himself to the tanker with a polyester rope. More than 100 feet in front, a second, longer rope is anchored to the concrete with heavy metal hooks.

Then, he picks up the second rope’s end. Heaves. Grunts. Tugs.

“It’s explosivity,” Kirsch said, describing his process used to pull himself along the rope. “There’s so much force going behind that. You’re basically an engine. A human tug.”

McConnell, the world’s largest tanker base, is home to more than 60 of the tankers.

But Kirsch is pulling just one this weekend.

So when will he stop?

“When I get hired to host ‘The Tonight Show,’ ” Kirsch said, joking that he would be perfect to take Jay Leno’s place. “Assuming he doesn’t retire, I’ll probably do this for 20 years.”

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com.

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