Wind proved to be one of the biggest challenges for 10 crane operators who convened in Davenport, Fla., for the Crane Operator Rodeo National Championship on October 27. While the area did not experience the brunt of Hurricane Sandy, it did make for gusty conditions during the competition.
Conducted by Event Partner Crane Institute Certification (CIC) and organized by MCM Events, the national competition brought together the 10 best crane operators from around the country in a demonstration of precision and speed. Jesse Pettit, an operator for Maxim Crane in Phoenix, Ariz., was named the winner. Pettit first got his experience as a crane operator in the U.S. Army and has been operating cranes commercially for about 10 years.
“The biggest challenge was the unlevelness of the crane and the wind, but this creates a scenario for better showcasing the skill of the operator,” Pettit said, before competing in the final round. Pettit typically operates a 75-ton Link-Belt truck crane, but he has also operated cranes up to 240 tons capacity. He’s currently working on a job where he is the second operator, a position similar to an oiler, on a 292-ton Liebherr LTM 1250 all-terrain crane.
As the National Champion, Pettit received $1,000 cash, a custom belt buckle, a one-of-a-kind leather bomber jacket, and a die-cast crane model. Prizes were sponsored by Manitowoc Cranes and were presented by David Polce, account manager for Manitowoc CraneCare and Elias Chakour, regional business manager for crawler and mobile hydraulic cranes. Pettit will also receive VIP treatment in the Liebherr booth at ConExpo 2014 and will be featured on the cover of a January 2013 Supplement to Crane & Rigging Hot Line magazine.
Using a 66-ton Liebherr LTR 1060 telescopic crawler crane, operators were scored on their ability to perform the Barrel Dunk, Barrel Weave, and Pipe events with the boom extended to 124 feet. The tasks were similar to those conducted during Regional Rodeo Qualifier Events, but with variations, making the tasks more difficult.
“At the Regional Rodeo Qualifier Events the cranes were operated with 70 feet of boom. In the National Championship we increased that to 124 feet because the longer the boom the more skill it takes to control the load,” said Jim Headley, president of Crane Institute of America, Sanford, Fla., which is the parent company of CIC. In addition, the course was set up further from the crane, and the crane was not perfectly level.
The crawler crane, which was provided by Liebherr Cranes Inc., Newport News, Va., was set up in ground conditions that put it at its maximum of 5° offset. Alan Hemingway, Liebherr product manager-sales, explained that in a 5° out-of-level situation, the crane has a reduced load chart. For the purposes of the Crane Operator Rodeo, however, the load was well within the limitations.
Tom Evers and Bill Scofield, who are trainers for Crane Institute of America and authorized CIC practical examiners, judged the competition. When asked his impression of the 10 operators who made it to the National Championship, Evers said: “These are top of the line operators. They know how to operate a crane rather than letting the crane operate them.”
“The 10 finalists each showed why they were able to make it to the National Championship,” said Curt Jabben, sales manager of crane products for The Crosby Group, Tulsa, Okla. “They all share the same belief that they will do the job in the safest and most responsible manner. Crosby/McKissick is proud to sponsor this event. I look forward to next year’s regionals and the final competition at ConExpo 2014.”
The operators posting the four lowest scores competed in a second round, and those with the best three scores took home prizes. “The top four operators started with a clean slate in the playoff round in order to reduce any disadvantages some may have experienced due to the wind earlier in the day,” said Debbie Dickinson, executive director of CIC. “The final numbers were determined by multiplying that score by the time it took to complete the events. The lowest number wins,” she said.
First runner-up in the National Crane Operator Championship was Mark Adcock of Crane Rental Corp. He works out of the Davenport, Fla., office. From Manitowoc he received $500 cash and a die-cast crane model.
Second runner-up was John Seach of Marco Crane & Rigging, based in Phoenix, Ariz. He received $250 cash and a die-cast crane model.
The other qualifier in the final four was Gregg Eldridge of Payne’s Cranes, Bainbridge, N.Y.
During the awards dinner following the conclusion of the event, Guy Ramsey, president of Maximum Capacity Media, compared crane operators to golfers. Professional golfers also have to contend with the shifting wind, changing weather, and conditions of the course as they apply their skills to the game. It takes precision and perseverance to come out on top in any given tournament, just as it does to be a top-notch crane operator.
“The 10 operators sitting around this table are all winners," he said. "I’m certain that on another day the rankings could be very different, just as it is for golfers. In a tournament this week Phil Mickelson might win and then next week finish way down the leader board. Each of you represents the top of your profession and you should all be proud of your achievement.”