Second Disaster - Tower Falls

As days go, this was going to be a bad one. Every ham knows that sinking feeling when gear fails but when your tower falls the pain is just indescribable. Miraculously no one got hurt so at least there is one thing to be happy about.

Every single piece of aluminum was bent. The mast, the booms, every element of both beams, and the tower itself was bent. There was absolutely nothing to salvage. I was going to be off the air for a long time.

Two other things to be happy about are my insurance coverage and the great support from Heights Tower. Bless Farmers Insurance. They allowed the full claim for almost $10,000 which included labor and replacing everything. Do you think your ARRL insurance would have done that?

And second, Heights Tower has always supported me with new parts quickly when I needed them and this was no exception. Drake Dimitry, President of Heights Tower has been extremely helpful through the years. Keep in mind that this tower was purchased 9 years ago and since then Heights has updated and improved the design so that hopefully new customers will not have the same experience that I had.

A very scary lesson I learned was that this tower fell extremely quickly. Somehow I had always envisioned that it would fall slowly like a tree when a lumberjack yells, "TIIIIMMMMBBBERR!!!". Nope. Be warned, it falls like a rock, instantly. Had anyone or any animal been below they would not have had time to realize what hit them. It fell in a fraction of a second. Literally.

I had no warning. No creaking or groaning. Just "snap", THUD!

I was in the process of raising the tower and it was about half way up at 45 degrees. My wife had just come home from work and we were both by the control switch. We both saw it happen and we were both in shock. We just looked at each other in horror.

The gimble had failed. The gimble (which Heights Tower calls the "Travelling Nut") had simply given up the ghost and the threads were sucked right out of it. I ran a hardness test and guess what. It hadn't been hardened at all. No wonder it failed. I just wish I had run a hardness test BEFORE the disaster.

In the 9 years since this tower was purchased, Heights Tower has updated the Fold Over Kit (compact and strong aluminum now) and the Jack Screw Actuator (with the bronze traveller nut) for it, and a new customer hopefully will not experience the same problems that I have

The gimble, or travelling nut, is the threaded nut at the top of the worm gear. Heights Tower refers to the worm gear as the "Jack Screw". It is attached to the folding plate. The motor turns the worm gear and the gimble raises the folding plate. The tower is attached to the folding plate and as the hinge slowly opens up the tower slowly tilts over.

This gimble is the replacement for the one that froze up during the first disaster. That's how the first disaster was connected to the second.

Two stacked beams were mangled beyond recognition in an instant. A driven element and a director are now separated by only two feet. That is the boom folded out on the left.

The top beam was a HyGain 203BA full size 3-element 20 meter beam. The lower beam was a full size 10 and 15 meter beam interlaced, HyGain 1015A.

Notice the very slight "C" shape. That's not an optical illusion. I was hoping the curve would straighten out once the tower was back upright but no. I was afraid of it and sold it as scrap.

The tower was off the air from November, 1997 until June, 1998.

The third, and hopefully final disaster is next.

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