Niagara Falls, NY (WBEN) Senator Charles Schumer says the FAA has granted a permit to allow Haverfield Aviation to use a helicopter to tow a tightrope from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls to the American side, just in time for Nik Wallenda’s historic walk across the Falls on Friday.
“As Nik Wallenda prepares for his historic walk across Niagara Falls, nothing should stand in his way,” said Schumer.
“I am pleased with today’s announcement that the FAA has acted quickly to approve this critical permit, which will allow Nik Wallenda’s historic walk to move forward ” Schumer said during a stop in Buffalo Monday.
Otherwise, Schumer calls the tightrope walk a "good event" for Niagara Falls and Western New York.
"Some people like it. Some people don't, but it's sure a shot in the arm in the economy," he said.
He's also happy that ABC Television has insisted that Wallenda wear a tether to make the walk.
"I think it's being done right and done well," Schumer says.
Schumer won't be in Niagara Falls for the event on Friday night, but he wished Nik Wallenda well in his walk across the Falls.
Now 10 months later, the Rochester-area electrical contractor is ready to string an 8 ton cable across the Niagara Gorge, with tensioners and pullers more often used to hold high tension electrical wires, rather than high-profile wire walkers.
Wallenda plans to walk a wire in front of the Horseshoe Falls Friday evening, as part of a three hour special broadcast nationwide on ABC TV.
"Probably one of the biggest challenges will be pulling it under an incredible amount of tension to keep it up out of the water as it goes near the brink on the American side," says Parke, the power group manager at O 'Connell Electric of Victor, NY.
Sometime late Tuesday, after the Maid of the Mist makes the final run for the day, a helicopter will bring the cable across the gorge, after getting special FAA permission for such a low flyover in a normally restricted area. A local rigging company working with Parkes crew will then begin securing the cable, in much the same way his company has done on various electrical projects.
"It's a somewhat common task we do every day here. The only issue is with this particular cable is quite large in diameter and weighs close to 8 tons," Parkes said.
About a dozen other tightrope artists have crossed the Niagara Gorge downstream, dating to Jean Francois Gravelet, aka The Great Blondin, in 1859. But no one has walked directly in front of the Falls and authorities haven't allowed any tightrope acts in the area since 1896. It took Wallenda two years to persuade U.S. and Canadian authorities to allow it.
The Niagara Falls walk set for Friday night, above a nearly 200-foot drop and through potentially high winds and vision-obscuring mist, will be unlike anything Wallenda-- or any daredevil before him--has ever done.
Originally, Parke's crew had scoped out an attachment point further down river, much closer to the scene of previous Niagara Falls wire walks, such as the one Jean Francois Gravelet, known as the Great Blondin first undertook in 1859.
"We were going to do it further down in the gorge but then when we met with Nik, he didn't like where it was because he wasn't going to get the opportunity to get wet as he walked across, so we ended up redesigning some things and we shifted it further to the Horseshoe Falls, " Parke says.
Because it's over water, the 2-inch wire won't have the usual stabilizer cables to keep it from swinging. Pendulum anchors are designed to keep it from twisting under his elkskin-soled shoes on the 1,800-foot walk from the U.S. shore to Canada.
"The thing about this cable, it's unique to me even, and because of that I'll be very, very focused on it," Wallenda said .
Parke's crew will have a large 40, 000 pound "tensioner" device on the American side, wrapping the cable around a large spool to hold it tight, and another 20,000 "puller" crane on the Canadian side.
"It's a major co-ordination effort dealing with the two governments, Canada and The United states .. a lot of paperwork. We've been working on this for about ten months with a lot of different approaches to the project ," Parkes said, adding that the entire project should be in place by around 4am Wednesday morning.