Dulles Day Celebrates 20 Years of ‘Plane-Pulling’ as Airport Marks a Half-Century of Service

Published: September 18, 2012

Sept. 22 Event to Benefit Special Olympics Virginia


It’s the Man vs. Machine event of the year. Special Olympics Virginia and Dulles International Airport will hold their 20th anniversary of Dulles Day Plane Pull during the airport’s celebration of its 50th anniversary.

Nearly 70 teams will try to hold their own in a tug-of-war against an 82-ton FedEx Airbus cargo plane. Teams of 25 people compete to haul the giant jetliner 12 feet in the shortest amount of time. The City of Chesapeake, Va., Sheriff’s Office will be defending its five-year streak of taking the first prize trophy.

“This very worthwhile cause gives Special Olympics athletes an opportunity to compete in events that they usually wouldn’t be able to participate in,” said Chris Pascal, Captain of City of Chesapeake, Va., Sheriff’s Office Plane Pull team. “Their participation in competitive sport builds confidence and empowers them to reach their goals.”  

The unique fundraising event, which began at Dulles in 1993, has spurred other plane pulls across the nation. Today, the annual airfield event has raised more than $1.5 million to benefit Special Olympics Virginia and its athletes.

Plane Pull is part of the Dulles Day Family Festival which brings thousands of families each year to the region’s busiest airport.

This event has grown to include a variety of attractions. Last year, nearly 11,000 children and kids at heart came out to enjoy airfield tours, helicopter rides, games and to cheer on the Plane Pull teams. Highlights for 2012 include:

  • Vintage aircraft- climb on board to get a firsthand look at unique aircraft and get your questions answered by their pilots
  • Car show- come check out the classic cars, race cars including the FedEx NASCAR and motorcycles too
  • Dulles’ signature Mobile Lounges will buzz around the airfield every 30 minutes each with guided tours of one of the nation’s busiest airports. 
  • Famous Famiglia pizza eating contest at 1:30 p.m. – participants compete to eat as much pizza as they can grab
  • Kids Zone area – kids can bounce, jump and play on the Moon Bounce and even try their arm at getting a grown-up wet in the dunk tank
  • Kid’s Truck Pull - little ones, who don’t yet have the strength to move an aircraft, will have a chance to gather their friends for a tug-of-war with a truck
  • MWAA Police will perform K-9 training demonstrations
  • Community exhibits
  • Additional food court options will have Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck, Merone’s Italian and assorted grill-cooked foods

The Dulles Day Family Festival and Plane Pull will be held rain or shine on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Dulles International Airport. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. Admission and parking are free.

Dulles International Airport marks its 50th year of service in 2012. Congress authorized a second airport for Washington, D.C. in 1958, and the new airport opened for business in November 1962 and was named in honor of former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. It was the nation’s first airport designed for commercial jets. Annual passenger traffic reached 1 million in 1966, and, through the years, Dulles has grown to become a major international gateway to the Washington area and the Mid-Atlantic region, now serving more than 23 million passengers a year.

To support Special Olympics Virginia by registering your team, signing up to exhibit, volunteer, or sponsor, by visiting planepull.com or call 703-359-4301. 

For media questions, contact Katie Botha at 804-467-6004, kbotha@specialolympicsva.org or Kimberly Gibbs at 703-417-1210 kimberly.gibbs@mwaa.com.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority was established in 1987 by the governments of Virginia and the District of Columbia to manage and operate Washington’s Ronald Reagan National and Dulles International airports, which together serve more than 40 million passengers a year. The Airports Authority also operates and maintains the Dulles Airport Access Road and the Dulles Toll Road and manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail system. 

Special Olympics Virginia is an accredited state program of Special Olympics Incorporated.  Special Olympics is an international organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports everyday around the world. Through work in sports, health education and community building, Special Olympics is addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance and social isolation by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities which leads to a more welcoming and inclusive society. Visit us at www.specialolympicsva.org. Engage with us on Twitter @solympicsva; fb.com/specialolympicsvirginia; and youtube.com/specialolympicsva.