Friday, June 15, 2012

Power Engineers has hand in epic stunt

Valley resident Peter Catchpole engineers cable for tightrope walk across Niagara Falls


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Hailey engineer Peter Catchpole stands in front of Niagara Falls. Catchpole designed the supports for acrobat Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk across the famous falls.

When tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walks 1,800 feet on a cable across Niagara Falls tonight, June 15, he will trust his life to civil engineer Peter Catchpole, who works for Power Engineers in Hailey.

Wallenda is a seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas tightrope walking family. His walk, through potentially high winds above water, called for an innovative cable support system, designed by Catchpole.

Bellevue metal worker and designer Jason Georgiades was hired by Catchpole to manufacture pendulum anchors and tension dampeners to keep the cable stable during Walenda's walk across the falls.

Catchpole, a 63-year old civil engineer, usually engineers transmission cables that carry electricity, not people. But this isn't the first time he's been called in to do something unusual.

"I'm known in the office as the guy who does oddball stuff," said Catchpole in a telephone interview on Monday from Niagara Falls.

Several years ago, Catchpole designed a transmission line in British Columbia that spans a 4,000-foot-deep gorge in avalanche country. The transmission line, one of only two such lines in the world, has a 10-foot square helipad 500 feet above the ground for use by inspectors.

"That one was built in the middle of nowhere and we had a year and half to build it," Catchpole said. "This one [at Niagara Falls] is in a tourist mecca and we only have two and half days to build it. There are mothers with baby strollers looking up at us. We have to put it up at night."

The Niagara Falls walk, set for tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, will be televised live on ABC. Wallenda will walk 1,800 feet from the U.S. shore to Canada above a nearly 200-foot drop.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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