POWER Engineers Shores up Nik Wallenda in Niagara Falls Stunt
“King of the High Wire” Stuntman Nik Wallenda needed a wire that would “behave” for his dramatic tightrope walk across Niagara Falls amid roaring water and wind on June 15.
Wallenda was planning the first sanctioned stunt at the Falls in 116 years and the first to cross directly over it on a high wire. He needed a state-of-the-art engineering system to keep the line stable, so his usual team, understanding that this time they were out of their comfort zone of experience called on POWER Engineers to draw on the firm’s expertise with high-tension steel cable, more typically in the context of high-voltage transmission lines.
POWER successfully handled the design and overnight installation and teardown of the 2-inch diameter cable for Wallenda’s 1,400-foot walk across the gorge. It was installed overnight in 14 hours and removed three days later in seven.
“I’ve worked on some pretty unique transmission lines,” said Peter Catchpole, the senior project manager who led the POWER team. “While the engineering of transmission lines can get tricky, we’ve never worked for someone that wanted to actually walk on a line before.”
POWER installed micropile anchors into bedrock to hold the cable at a tension of 30 tons (60,000 pounds) by lifting near both anchors with 170-ton cranes. The cable sagged a mere 35 ft at its midpoint placing it 200 feet above the river below. The POWER team developed some unique engineering solutions, such as the installation of a series of stabilizing pendulums to eliminate the unwalkable twisting on the cable.
“Our engineers thrive on these kinds of challenges, and it’s what they love most about working at POWER,” said Tim Ostermeier, POWER’s chief operating officer. “We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to work on so many extraordinary projects like this. In fact, we seem to be a magnet for stuff like this because our clients know we can handle their most difficult problems.”
About POWER Engineers
POWER Engineers is a global consulting engineering firm specializing in the delivery of integrated solutions for energy, food and beverage, facilities, communications, environmental, and federal markets. POWER Engineers offers complete multidiscipline engineering and program management services. Founded in 1976, it is an employee-owned company with more than 1,500 employees and over 30 offices throughout the United States and abroad.