• Nikon
  • Roag
  • Gauteng Motor Show

Photo journal: SA strongman goes the distance

Words & Photos: Meghan Mccabe

The South African Air Force Museum (SAAF Museum), in conjunction with XL, the newly launched energy drink, challenged eight-time SA Strongman Champion Etienne Smit to pull a C-160 aircraft at Zwartkop Air Force Base, in Centurion, on Thursday, 12 June 2014.

Photo credit: Meghan Mccabe

Image 01

Ettiene Smit is strapped into a special harness for his first attempt to pull a C160 Transall plane, the only one of its kind in South Africa. Also known as the ‘Flossie’, this reliable carrier could carry 64 fully outfitted paratroopers or 94 normal passengers and rose to fame during the SA/Angola Bush War. No one has ever attempted to pull this plane on their own, manually.

Image 02

Lt Col Mike O'Connor gave a brief history on the Flossie, which is safely parked at the Zwartkop Air Force Base and on display at the museum. The Flossie was built in 1963 and weighs 29 tons, without fuel (12 tons of fuel was normally loaded). No one is sure how much fuel is left in the plane, but they speculate there's still quite a bit stored in the giant's wings.

Image 03

Garth Collins, better known as Granite from the MTN Gladiators, was the MC and is one of Ettiene's training partners and a close friend.

Image 04

Ettiene pulling the Flossie with absolute ease. The harness and rope helped with stability during the pull.

Photo credit: Meghan Mccabe

Image 05

After deciding that the first attempt was too easy, Ettiene had another go, this time with just a harness and no stabilising rope. It was absolutely incredible to see how simple a mammoth task like this can be when someone is determined to push their body to the limit.

Image 06

The thought of trying to pull a plane is something very few would even attempt, and it was very easy to see why. This plane is massive, with a wingspan of 42 metres and the tail stands 12 metres above the ground. It is also a huge challenge from a technical aspect. However, strongman Ettiene Smit accomplished this South Africa first and barely broke a sweat doing it. 

Image 07

XL, a Polish energy drink, was the main sponsor of the day and the media were kept well hydrated with a constant supply of energy drinks.

Image 08

To demonstrate that no 'normal' person could pull this massive plane, Garth invited random members of the press to attempt a pull. The results were very humorous, and even though the volunteers gave it everything they had, to move the plane even just a step, no one succeeded.