The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s jet pull at Portland International Jetport is not much different from an oxen pull at a Maine country fair.

There is a lot of maneuvering to get the 72-ton FedEx cargo plane into place and then a brief but sweat-inducing display of muscle power as 25 team members yanking a thick tow rope strain to make the jet move down the tarmac. In most cases it takes only seconds to drag the towering aircraft down the 12-foot track.

“It was harder than I thought,” said Jim McLaughlin, team spokesman for the Stantec Nor’Easters, representing the Scarborough office of Stantec, a design and consulting firm.

The Stantec team was one of 15 teams competing Saturday in the 10th annual MS Plane Pull to raise money to fund research, programs and services to fight multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system. About 3,000 people in Maine have MS.

The jet pull drew hundreds of spectators who yelled encouragement as the teams competed to drag the plane, with a FedEx employee at the controls to apply the brakes. The team to beat was Pratt & Whitney North Berwick, five-time champions who last year set a record of 4.29 seconds. The event was expected to pull in $35,000.

“Companies come out in full force because it is a great team builder,” said Sue Tidd, director of development for the society, which has an office in Falmouth.

About 20 FedEx volunteers helped organize the event.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm, which is the fun part about it,” said Laurie Doody, a FedEx employee and jet pull event coordinator.

The teams, some dressed in silly costumes, are awarded trophies and bragging rights in a number of categories, such as fastest, slowest and team spirit. If the team couldn’t muster the required 25 members, volunteers were drafted from the crowd of spectators.

Competitors said pulling a jet was more fun than they expected.

Dan Sanford, team captain for Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland, said his team had not practiced for the event.

“Other than lifting a few pints now and again,” joked Sanford.

Noting that 16 ounces is significantly lighter than 72 tons, Sanford said his team was nevertheless mentally prepared for the endeavor.

“With everyone pulling together, it lessens the load. Many hands make short work,” said Sanford.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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