There’s something about tower cranes that never fails to fascinate most everyone from wide-eyed children to seasoned construction professionals.

Maybe it’s the distinctive profile of the skeletal jib impossibly balanced atop a narrow tower. Perhaps it’s the illusion of the tower erecting a structure on its own, overshadowing human workers by its sheer size and deft, yet deliberate movements. 

Or, maybe it’s because construction activity on a supersized scale is simply fun to watch.

So it’s nice to know that after a string of deadly accidents and heightened industry concern about equipment and operator safety, tower cranes have retained their high-altitude allure.

Recently, the
Wilmington, Del. News Journal profiled Daniel Owens, one of the crane operators working on the Indian River Inlet Bridge, a new $150 million, 2,600 foot long cable-stay structure along Delaware’s coast. Scheduled for completion in mid-2011,the bridge’s 900-ft clear span and landside support foundations will eliminate long-standing scour problems that have bedeviled the existing five-span, 860-ft. long steel girder structure.

 article details life at 300 feet above the ground, where Owens and his counterpart crane operator across the inlet (his cousin, as it turns out) maneuver tons of steel and equipment for the bridge’s superstructure and 240-ft tall towers.  It also answers many of the questions often posed by casual crane gawkerswhat’s the view like, does the swaying make you sick, and how do you…um, answer Nature’s call. 

And while the article acknowledges the inherent dangers of tower crane work, including the high-profile accidents in 2008, Owens’ demeanor conveys the same kind of professionalism associated with astronauts and first responders. 

It’s almost enough to make even the most weak-kneed reader want to take a deep breath, climb that long ladder to the cab, and spend a day at the controls. 

(Well, maybe not the part about walking out to the end of the jib for inspections.)