Daredevil has local connection

Nik Wallenda’s incredible feat of traversing the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon on a tight rope had a local connection that few people may know about.

The 2,200-foot cord was manufactured at Wirerope Works Inc., of Williamsport.

Kim Konyar, product engineer at the local plant, said the 2-inch thick wire rope was the same one used by Wallenda to cross Niagara Falls in June 2012.

“He needed a physically heavier rope so it wouldn’t sway in the breeze,” Konyar said.

Wallenda had Wirerope engineers specifically design the rope for his feat.

Konyar noted that the stuntman approached three companies that make such wire ropes before settling on the local plant’s product.

“He actually toured the facility,” Konyar said.

He said Wallenda ended up liking the plant’s manufacturing process and the people he dealt with at the plant.

Konyar said those who came in contact with Wallenda found him to be an interesting person.

“He wasn’t sure what he wanted at the time,” Konyar said. “We did a break test here to prove that it had the strength he needed.”

All told, Wallenda ended up testing three ropes produced at Wirerope before selecting one.

That rope weighed in at 8 tons and was composed of six strands, with 49 wires each and a steel center with 49 wires.

It had the ability to hold up to 200 tons.

The “special order” rope took about 16 to 18 weeks to produce.

Wallenda made his daredevil journey 1,500 feet above the river on the Navajo Nation near the Grand Canyon on June 23 without any safety nets as millions watched on television, including many Wirerope personnel.

“I sat on the edge of my chair and held my breath the entire time he crossed the Grand Canyon,” said Norm Szamocki, Wirerope’s director of operations.

“The strength is in the rope, integrity is in the rope … we just sat back, white-knuckled the walk and cheered him on,” Konyar added.

Wirerope has been involved in manufacturing products for a number of noted construction projects over the years.

The company made suspension cables for the Brooklyn Bridge in 1986 as well as rope for Madison Square Garden and major airports.