WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the pupil transportation industry pulled together, literally, to help raise money for the Special Olympics of Virginia and to publicize school bus safety.
Representing the School Bus Information Council (SBIC), 20 people from all parts of the industry participated in the 12th annual Plane Pull, a Special Olympics fund-raising event held each year at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C.
Chief among the participants were Charlie Gauthier, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, and Mike Martin, executive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation.
But they were supported by several members of the supplier community, including representatives of Blue Bird Corp., IC Corp., Thomas Built Buses and IMMI, as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute.
In all, 20 school bus enthusiasts participated in the competition, which involved pulling a 150,000-pound Boeing 727 a distance of 12 feet.
Unfortunately, a technical problem caused the team to pull for 15 seconds without budging the plane. The problem was that the ground crew forgot to release the plane’s brake.
Wiped out from their first futile attempt, the team was given only 15 seconds of recovery before having to pull again. This time, the plane was pulled across the finish line in a respectable, but disappointing, 7.847 seconds.
Later in the day, 13 members of the SBIC team joined seven members of Enterprise Rent-a-Car to pull the plane in 7.266 seconds — the fifth-fastest time of the day.
The event was also an opportunity to put buses on display. Four buses — a multifunction school activity bus from Blue Bird, a green diesel bus from IC Corp. and two vehicles from Thomas Built Buses — served as a magnet for hundreds of kids and parents. The manufacturers also helped to sponsor the SBIC’s participation.
The event raised more than $100,000 but faced weather-related challenges. Remnants of Hurricane Ivan brought rain, tornadoes and wind gusts of up to 40 mph. But spirits remained high. “Hundreds of parents and their kids got to see, touch and sit in school buses on a Saturday,” said Martin of NAPT. “That’s a good day, in my book.”