Without doubt, I’m sure that every Operator remembers the first Towercrane they operated. I’d bet that every Operator also has a few unforgettable memories as they learned the ins and outs of their new position while they got familiar with their new machine. Well now its my turn to take a seat up top and go through the growing pains like every operator before me. For better or for worse I’ve been given a FM Gru flat top towercarane to start off my new career. After three months and about 500 hours here is what my experience has been.
Besides a couple Self Erect cranes, I don’t have a basis for comparison, but for my first few weeks operating the FM Gru 1355 TLX flat top towercrane I was certain that I was gonna be in for a long rough ride. I couldn’t slew more than two seconds or roughly 10 degrees in 1st gear without the crane losing power and coming to a stop. If you did this a few times this would cause the jib to snake left and right and the tower would chatter and shake. You would also have to wait a few seconds before the crane would allow you to start a slewing motion again. This made some slower placements, and “walking” loads into tight spots, extremely frustrating. I couldn’t figure out how to do it any different. After a few complaints we had a visit from a Mega Crane tech who didn’t make me any more confident that I’d get a handle on this machine. He assured me that this cutting out was normal and that the solution was to get into second gear immediately. I was left limping loads into place and was convinced that this was a terrible Crane… but I was wrong.
After running the crane like this for another couple of weeks, I was contacted by Mega Crane’s head tech, Vlad. He had heard that I was still finding the Towercrane difficult to operate. After a quick conversation Vlad had an idea of what may be going on and headed out to our job site to try and fix the problem. It turns out that the amperage was set too high for the first gear; something I guess the first tech had overlooked. After a few adjustments in the Control Panel Vlad had this thing running smooth. No sudden stops. no wiggling jib. good to go.
So finally I’m introduced to a properly working FM Gru and was given a chance to get familiar with the operations. I really started to take a liking to this machine. Flying loads quickly became much easier and I was bit smoother after every lift. After getting loads moving smoothly in all my single functions I could focus on learning to catch my swings and start blending the slew, trolley, and hoist functions together. The Fm Gru is capable of 3 trolley speeds which are a well balanced successive step up in speed. The hoist has 4 speeds which are also well balanced, and can get the loads up to height as quickly or slowly as you would want. Because of the very tight work site that I am working on I am slewing left and right in mostly first and second gears in a 90 degree area. There is a third gear that I use occasionally when I have a load that is travelling 180 degrees. All in all the FM Gru gets it done, and can get it done done quickly. As far as getting done smoothly… well the smoothness is really up to the operator. While I am far from perfect I can say that some loads I’ve flown are smoother than others and that I’m constantly improving. And just when I think it’s all coming together Mother Nature forces me to step up my game after sending 40 km/h winds at me.
The FM Gru operator’s manual states that the 1355 TLX can operate in winds up to 72 km/h, and the local Worksafe regulations favour a shut down at 50 km/h. I had a steady wind of 20-30 km/h and gusts of 40 km/h so I decided to operate and definitely learned a lot about how much the wind effects loads and the slewing speeds of the crane. That took some getting used to. The Fm Gru was strong enough to fight through the high head winds and with some careful timing your loads can be flown and stopped where you wanted safely and reliably. The Tail winds were a little different as there is about a ten second period where the crane coasts before the slewing brake is automatically applied. This is great when you have no wind, but on a windy day your load can easily drift another 5-15 degrees in that time, which can be dangerous if your working in tight spaces or near power lines. There is a manual button to apply the brake which you must use to safely control the swing. Unfortunately the button must be held until the auto brake switch engages ( ten seconds), and the position is awkward as its beside the left trolley/swing joystick. This made multi-functioning difficult, and even single functioning was delayed unless you stretched your pinky finger to hold the brake while you used the trolley function, or used your right arm to trolley on the left joystick. While it is more challenging to operate in wind the FM Gru ultimately performed well once adjustments are made to work with the brake delay and positioning of controls.
Three months in the seat and I’ve gotta say that the Fm Gru is starting to fit like a glove. I enjoy operating this machine, and every day added it just gets that much more predictable and my operating gets smoother. While I’m looking forward to the next job and learning to operate different types of towercranes I am enjoying getting to know the Fm Gru better and better.