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‘The hardest thing I’ve done’ - Norfolk wheelchair user part of world record-setting group who pulled plane

PUBLISHED: 10:11 25 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:00 25 November 2018

The group on the tarmac at Heathrow. Syd Smith (far left) took part in a world record setting challenge. Photo: Carey Ledford, Aerobility

The group on the tarmac at Heathrow. Syd Smith (far left) took part in a world record setting challenge. Photo: Carey Ledford, Aerobility

Archant

A former mountaineer and deep sea diver from north Norfolk has taken part in a tough physical challenge that was a childhood dream come true.

The group on the tarmac at Heathrow. Photo: Carey Ledford, AerobilityThe group on the tarmac at Heathrow. Photo: Carey Ledford, Aerobility

From climbing in the Himalayas, flying planes and diving off the coast of Scotland, Syd Smith is no stranger to unusual experiences.

But for the former trawler man from Briston, his latest adventure, which he called his “last hurrah”, was the strangest yet.

Alongside 98 other wheelchair users, Mr Smith, 59, has set a new world record for the heaviest weight pulled for more than 100m - by towing a Boeing Dreamliner strapped to their backs across the tarmac of Heathrow Airport.

Mr Smith described the challenge as “the hardest thing I’ve done in my life” and said: “It felt like I had an elephant hanging off the back of my wheelchair pulling me backwards.”

The group on the tarmac at Heathrow. Photo: Carey Ledford, AerobilityThe group on the tarmac at Heathrow. Photo: Carey Ledford, Aerobility

Mr Smith said: “I’ve been in a wheelchair for 30 years.

“I had an embolism when I was climbing in the Himalayas and a few weeks later I had a stroke.

“I used to get the Guinness Book of World Records for Christmas as a child and to dream of being in there and now I am.

“I’m a world record holder - how amazing is that?”

The group on the tarmac at Heathrow. Photo: Carey Ledford, AerobilityThe group on the tarmac at Heathrow. Photo: Carey Ledford, Aerobility

The challenge took place on Friday, November 23, at Heathrow, and was organised by BA Engineering and charities Wheels4Wings and Aerobility.

The group had to pull the plane, which weighed in at 127.6 tonnes for a minimum distance of 100m.

The previous record was set in Belgium, by a group of wheelchair users pulling a 67-tonne Hercules aircraft for 102m, in 2011.

Mr Smith said: “They put the straps on each wheelchair and there were nine lines of 11 people, to make up 99 people, but we were short and ended up with 98.

“There were some people that aren’t disabled taking part, and if one of them had put a foot on the ground we would have had to start all over again.

“It was like a tug of war in reverse.

“We were all shocked because we thought the start was going to be hard but when we got going it was worse and when we got 50m in people started not being able to push as hard.

“I was screaming out at people to keep going.

“We managed it on the first try.”

And the event a total of £15,130.50 was raised for Aerobility, a charity which helps give disabled people the opportunity to fly aeroplanes.

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