Weehawken Police Lt. Richard DeCosmis walked onto the tarmac at Newark Liberty Airport to join 18 co-members of the Weehawken Police Benevolent Association (PBA) team for the 2012 Plane Pull. The annual event was held Sept. 29 to raise money for the New Jersey Special Olympics, where teams from around the state gathered to – you guessed it – pull a 120,000 pound 737 jet 12 feet with a rope and as many as 20 sets of gloved hands.
As DeCosmis, the team’s leader, approached the enormous Continental plane, he wasn’t fazed at all. That Saturday marked the second time he and his team had pulled a plane for charity. One slight difference was that this year, the plane was around 27,000 pounds heavier than the one they pulled two years prior.
“When I first saw the plane last time, I thought, ‘What, are you kidding me?’” he recalled. The hardest part, he said, was getting the plane going from a dead stop. But once it gets moving teams are able to get the jet going pretty fast.
“I want to know the first person who thought this up,” DeCosmis laughed. “But it’s a great contrast to traditional tug of war where one team can humiliate another. In this instance, if a team doesn’t win, I think it would be hard to find someone who wouldn’t understand that. It’s a plane.”
“I didn’t think the plane would be so big.” – Luis Nunez
This year’s Weehawken PBA team was made up of around eight police officers and their family members, PBA members and supporters, and members of Edgewater’s CKO Kickboxing gym where some of the officers work out. As DeCosmis joined up with his teammates, it was clear by the size of them that they definitely had a fighting chance.
Before the pull
Luis Nunez, a senior and a football player at Weehawken High School, joined his police officer father Agusto for the first time to help get the massive jet moving.
“I didn’t think the plane would be so big,” he said, a tad amazed as he gazed at the 737. “I’m absolutely amazed, but I definitely think we can do it.”
Nunez was joined by fellow senior Jimmy Mack Casey who joined his police officer father Jimmy Casey that day, and who was also set to pull the plane for the second time.
“I did it last time because they needed another guy,” he explained. “At first I looked at it and I thought, ‘Seriously? We’re going to pull that?’ But it turned out we had no problem. We placed fourth for speed, and this year we’ve got some pretty big guys.”
Like “Fat A.J.,” for instance, Casey said.
A member of CKO Kickboxing, A.J. Caprio decided to up the ante for himself and participate in a pizza eating contest. Around a mere half an hour before the pull, Caprio stood on a platform with around 15 other contestants and consumed, incredibly, 14 giant slices of pizza in 10 minutes.
“I feel fantastic,” Caprio said when asked how 14 slices sat in his stomach. “Until the two minute mark the pizza tastes good, and at six minutes you feel like you’re going to die of a heart attack. At the 10th minute, you never want to eat pizza again.”
Which makes sense, as those merely watching Caprio in his 10th minute never want to eat pizza again.
Caprio’s post-gorge trick? Wash it all down with a cherry Italian ice before heading off to tug 120,000 pounds of plane.
Six men, one plane, third place
There were two trials for every team that participated. During the first, every team member lined up along the rope to see how fast they could all pull the jet. Weehawken PBA pulled it 12 feet in 7.277 seconds. The organizers consider total weight, so though their speed was the fastest, they weren’t the lightest team.
During the second trial, the teams placed a minimum of six – yes, only six – men on the rope to see if they could get the plane moving. Most teams cannot. But Weehawken PBA did, and at a combined weight of only 1,353 pounds, the six team members managed to pull the plane its required distance in under two minutes.
They placed third for lowest combined weight for the day. They also managed to raise over $1,500 for the NJ Special Olympics. Though the amount was less than the $5,000 they raised before, it was still a sizeable donation to a worthy cause, DeCosmis reasoned.
Upon leaving the tarmac to make his 4 p.m. shift, taking the team’s victory in stride, he said, “What else was I going to do today? I could have sat at home, or I could have pulled a plane for a great cause with some great guys.”
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org