World Record Attempt - Unicyclists Towing Plane - Possible?


So after some discussions with a fundraiser for the RAF Association, we think it would be awesome if we could arrange for unicyclists to tow a plane or similar. While she looks in to seeing if it can be arranged, I want to find out if anyone thinks it is possible.

Following the previous ideas thread I believe it was Tholub who said it is possible. What opinions do the rest of you have on it? Any scientific evidence to prove it’s chances? How would it be done? (Sorry for all the questions, but I’m no scientist!!)

Also - (if it happens) Who’s in? (based on it being in London, some time this year)


Tholub did say my suggestion was possible and although he didn’t qualify it I’d now have to agree purely on the ‘why not’ basis. I’d suggest though seeing how many unicyclists it would take to tow a car/van or something and then ‘scaling up’ the numbers to a plane. Also contacting some other charities that have done the towing plane thing to see what was involved.

And if this does happen and the date is OK for me I’d be up for it.

I did some quick searching and found quite a few references to tug-o-war teams of 20 people pulling passenger jets (Boeing 727 I think). Assuming unicyclists couldn’t get as much purchase on the ground as a person on foot, and that not all of them will be big heavy rugby players, I’d guess you’d need something like twice as many, so in the region of 50.

Of course, it depends what plane is used - a little Cessna or something is quite easy to push around with one person on smooth ground. A fighter-type-thing is somewhere between the two extremes.

Gary’s suggestion of trying it with a car sounds a good start. But saying that, I reckon I could pull my car on my own on flat tarmac - it’s easy enough to push around in the garage. They have lorry-pulling competitions on strong-man contests - OK, they’re really strong, but it’s only one person. If the tyres are pumped up nice and hard and the bearings are good, in theory it shouldn’t be hard to move - just very slow acceleration for something as heavy as a lorry or plane.

Oh, and if I can get to London on the chosen date I’m up for it.


Im up for towing a plane!
I’ll bring the 12" :slight_smile:

EDIT: How about we’re all on 12"s?

I don’t know how many unicyclists it would take, but towing things on a unicycle isn’t that difficult. I’ve ridden into and out of SF Bay towing a kayak via a chest strap; it wasn’t even that hard. It’ll probably be easier to do it via something connected to your body than something connected to the unicycle. For me, compensating for towing something was almost automatic.

It’ll just be a matter of figuring out the average unicyclist’s towing capacity, figuring out how much a plane weighs, and getting enough unicyclists. They’ll have to be decent unicyclists; getting started will probably be challenging. I’d recommend at least two rows, so people can hold hands to balance each other. Once the thing is moving, it’ll be easy.

With enough advance warning of when it would be, I’d gladly go :smiley: I’d just have to get plane tickets and such.

I think the biggest problem will be co-ordinating everyone to pull together. From my experience of participating in the Tunbridge Wells Pantiles annual sedan chair race as part of a unicycle team, I think it’s going to be difficult. My gut feeling is that it’s doable, though, and getting everyone towing together will probably be easier than getting 4 unicyclists to all ride in the same direction while carrying a sedan chair.

Why would anybody want to pull a plane by unicycle? Just to have some silly kind of new world record? I guess this isn’t my kind of thing. Although it should be possible with a small plane and a lot of unicyclists, but what what’s the point? You think it’ll be fun? Why not get on the plane and go to some great place instead of pulling it a couple of meters.

not sure if this actually a reason but, because a, its for charity. b, no ones done it before and c, were English? that qualifies it as a good idea in my book.
oh and if i can get there id love to be part of it sound like fun!:slight_smile:

This idea is full of win.

Definitely possible.

Regarding numbers: impossible to tell without giving us the type/model of plane.

A Spitfire or Hurricane would be badass, but honesty not that impressive. Maybe an old Vulcan or a Nimrod would be the right mix of “look big and impressive, but we can still get enough unicycles there”. A 747 would require a larger number of us than would go, I think.

I’d be in, provided I can get reasonable cheap airfare and sleep on somebody’s floor.

You’re asking unicyclists why they would want to do something silly with unicycles? If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand. Stick to “regular” unicycling for all your conventional transportation needs. :slight_smile:

To tow heavy stuff, it’s mostly a question of traction. Because our feet aren’t on the ground, it probably reduces the amount of towing power we can generate from leg strength. But if you’ve ever played unicycle sumo you know you can push/pull pretty hard on a unicycle. The biggest problem for a single unicyclist would be the dead spot. With a group of riders, it’ll be important to make sure everyone doesn’t start with the same pedal position! Or to use different wheel sizes, which should mostly cover that.

A small plane (like a Cessna) could probably be pulled pretty easily by a single unicyclist. Not very impressive. I like the idea of the Vulcan or another imposing style of larger aircraft, to make it look interesting and difficult. The riders should practice ahead of time, so any spectators and press don’t get their time wasted. Use a heavy vehicle with the parking brake partially on, for instance, to simulate the heavier vehicle.

I wonder if they pump up the tires in those large vehicles when they do these types of records? Or are the tires pretty high pressure to begin with?

Towing a heavy object is probably a lot easier to coordinate than carrying something like a sedan chair on unicycles. Nothing moves until everyone is coordinated, so it doesn’t just fall down as soon as you start…

Best of luck, and whatever you do, make sure you have photographers on hand to record it for us!

Small planes tend to run 60-80 psi, larger planes and carrier-borne aircraft will typically be 90-100+ psi.

Ive towed a car before. Its not hard with a uni. Holding onto the rope lets you lean over more than you would with normal riding and not be able to fall off, then with that leverage you can just power on the pedals and start to move.

I think a plane is doable.

yeah it should be possible, Ans we’d need to tow a reasonable sized plane for it to be worth it, but a huge plane like the 747 might be a little ambitious. I think something like a Vulcan would be ideal, but might be hard to find one to pull along. Either that or a Fighter plane, although smaller would be perfectly possible.
If it has to be done in london that means Gatwick, Stansted or Heathrow. And then the plane you want to pull needs to be there, in a place thats out of the way from all other planes in the airport. And how far would it be pulled?

And as choice of unicycles one with a decent tire grip and long cranks would be best I think.

If I can get there I am in, definitely.

I assume it will be a spare plane that the RAF has lying around? If so, it’s unlikely to be a Cessna or 747. I don’t know if the RAF still has any Vulcans in service, but recently there’s been a lot of press from these guys who have been raising money to keep their one going. I saw a Vulcan in the flesh for the first time about a month ago at East Mids Airport (Yes, I unicycled there, so this post is still on topic!), and it’s a lot lot bigger than I expected, and certainly very impressive.

Anyway, count me in for a spot of plane tugging.


Could be Docklands airport. Or any RAF base. Biggin Hill is just outside London, and that’s used for air shows. Or then again, Duxford is just a few miles up the road from Stanstead, and they’ve already got an impressive collection of planes there (including Concord).


yeah good point, Duxford wouldn’t be too bad.

hahaha I just asked my mum if I can go and tow a plane on a unicycle, she doesn’t seem to think its possible lol.

That Vulcan is still flying - I think it’s the only airworthy one left. I suppose they may be up for the publicity, although it’ll use a silly amount of fuel to get it there.

I think it would have to be something bigish to look impressive enough to attract attention - I wonder how heavy the average fighter is… I would guess lighter than a big lorry.

I’m sure somebody must have access to a lorry and a few unicyclists to test the theory, or even a car and a couple of unicyclists to start with. (and some nice flat tarmac)


If you decide to go will you tell everyone the blackcurrant squash story?

yeah there is only one Vulcan still flying. I’m not sure how much on average a fighter weighs, I’ll ask later. My dad works at various airbases in Norfolk and Suffolk. Although the likely hood of the US air force letting us practice is slim I will ask :smiley: