Link-Belt ATC-3130 Has a Busy First Week on Cellular Tower Job in PA

Wed October 09, 2002 - Northeast Edition

Lomma Crane and Rigging didn’t waste any time putting its new Link-Belt ATC-3130, 130-ton (117 t) all-terrain crane to work. From erecting tall cellular telephone towers in the Allegheny Mountains that surround Pittsburgh, setting a service building or installing a steam vault in downtown Pittsburgh, PA, Lomma’s new ATC-3130 had a busy first week on the job.

The new crane was chosen for its lift capacities as well as its reach.

“At 275 ft., which includes its five-section, full-power, 167.3-ft. main boom and optional 98.75-ft. fold-away jib, the ATC-3130 has the longest reach of any machine in its class. Combine that with the crane’s ability to work off the beaten path or on paved highways, then our reason for its purchase becomes a lot clearer,” said Victor DiPietro, manager, Lomma Crane and Rigging.

Lomma has a niche that is somewhat unique in the crane rental business. Cellular telephone companies, like NEXTEL and Verizon, will use Lomma’s machines to act as an antenna platform. Lomma will take its ATC-3130 out to the proposed cell tower site and put a signal generator and an antenna in a man basket. The operator raises the boom and jib to the height of the planned tower. While the antenna radiates a signal, cellular telephone company employees drive to various locations and monitor the signal strength. Using the data, they locate the new cell tower in the optimum area.

“They may only set the crane up once or they may have us move to several locations,” said DiPietro. “The mountainside tower sites are tricky, and the prevailing winds can either help or hurt you at this stage. The wind can swirl around the mountain at a hurricane force [which all operators dread], or there can be no wind at all after we set the tower,” continued DiPietro.

It is routine under proper wind conditions. Simply lower the tower down and slip it in place. When erecting the self-supporting towers, it can get a bit tricky, said DiPietro. The tower sections are often bolted together as they are erected, a section at a time. If all goes well, it is no problem. However, if the holes don’t precisely line up, the operator may have to hold the load for as much as a half hour while the fit is made, explained DiPietro.

“This is where the 20-degree tilt cab capability of the new Link-Belt crane comes into play. We can now tilt the cab back to a comfortable angle to watch the load. That’s an important comfort factor for the operator, and an even bigger safety factor for the erection crew,” said Gregg Craven, crane operator.

Maneuverability is another key feature of the ATC-3130 crane. It can steer in several different modes. The all-wheel crab steer is especially nice when maneuvering into a tight position such as in a restricted space on the side of a mountaintop. There’s barely enough room for the crane, and not much of a place to get to the most advantageous location to make the lift. The comparatively small footprint of the crane and its self-leveling ability on the outriggers are helpful to the operator and to the safety of the job. The operator can sit in the cab and level everything in a single motion.

Once the tower is in position, the ATC-3130 will offload and set a 43,000-lbs. (19,504 kg), 10- by 12- by 20-ft. (3 by 3.7 by 61 m) antenna tower service building.

The service building is brought to where the ATC-3130 can set the building from the transporter to the ground pad that has been built to receive it. These are very heavy buildings for their size and Lomma’s rigging specialty can handle this phase of the operation.

After erecting new cellular towers in the surrounding mountains of Pittsburgh, the ATC-3130 took part in the installation of a new steam vault and steam line coming from a generation plant to Allegheny General Hospital in downtown Pittsburgh.

The steam vault was installed in a trench 14 ft. (4.3 m) deep, measured 14 by 8 by 8 ft. (4.3 by 2.4 by 2.4 m), and weighed more than 52,000 lbs. (23,587 kg). It’s put in adjacent to temporary active lines. When placing the concrete vault in place it had 72.6-ft. (22 m) of boom, and a 55-degree boom angle.

For more information, call 606/263-5200.