The date is Saturday, October 5th, 2019. I walked into the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky, after a flight from Baltimore for my first CCAA fall conference. The host is Link-Belt construction equipment. The conference will include a plant tour and presentations by Link-Belt, Yale-Cordage, and NCCCO. Context is everything, so let's take a moment and visit essential dates that were key to an amazing first-time experience at a CCAA conference. After months of research, I found the CCAA, and in April 2019, I became a member. Skip forward to August 2019, I receive a call from Ed Shapiro, who serves on the Certification Committee for the CCAA. He asked if I was planning on attending the Fall conference? I informed him that I probably would attend but was not committed yet, to which he further encouraged me to attend. That night, I registered for the conference. Within a week, I had booked flights, a rental car, and a room in the hotel.
Now that you have some context, we can move forward. Saturday night, October 5th, 2019. I meet up with Ed who promptly introduces two other CCAA members, one being a familiar face. The latter is Ray Feidt, Chair of the CCAA Training Committee who I remember from articles that he has written and associated photos. The other is David Raraigh, CCAA Secretary. We have a drink and great conversation over dinner.
Sunday, October 6th, 2019, I'm up early for the CCS testing at 8 a.m. The Certified Crane Surveyor test is a comprehensive examination of your knowledge in the Third Party Crane Inspector's wheelhouse which I am thoroughly reminded of while sitting from my exam. There are three disciplines to choose from. Take all three at once if dare. Fair warning; it is no walk in the park, so compile your resources, which should include the CCAA Handbook when available and study up. After CCS testing, there is a first timer reception for new members and a welcome reception for all members and guests. Ed introduces me to a bunch of friendly faces, including the president of the CCAA, John Davis. Everyone I spoke with that morning was very welcoming and had a lot of information to share. The welcome reception put me at ease, and I immediately felt like this was home.
Monday morning is the networking breakfast where once again, everyone received other new members and myself with open arms and open minds, further putting my own mind at ease. Later that morning, the conference starts off with speaker Richard Thompson-NCCCO, David Raraigh-CCAA, and Jaime Goddard-Yale Cordage. All great speakers with informative topics. It’s now lunchtime, and it could not have come at a better time. I needed to digest the horse trough full of information that was just thrown in my face. In a good way. After lunch, it’s back to the conference room where Ray Feidt-CCAA leads off with Crane Capacity Charts and What are they anyway.
You are probably thinking that this topic is not special, well, you would be very wrong. When you speak on Crane Capacity Charts from the inspector’s point of view, you now have a whole new ball game that most of the players didn’t know they were hitting foul balls. Up next was Dennis O’Rourke-CCAA, John Davis-CCAA, up again is Ray Feidt-CCAA, followed by Bruce MacPherson-CCAA with a topic on How to evaluate structural repairs as “critical” or “less critical.” At this point, I have to be honest with two more speakers to go rounding off the evening; my focus and mental resources shifted mostly to note-taking. Fortunately, I brought along my laptop, figuring I would come across some valuable information. An understatement, I know. The speaker and round table part of the CCAA conference will inject anyone with enough mind-tingling information to raise endorphin levels high enough to leave you wanting more. Will I attend another CCAA conference? Does a crane pick stuff up and put it down?
If the last few hours were lunch and dinner for your mind, it was now time for dessert. By dessert, I mean, it was time to head to the Link-Belt facility for a plant tour. You can run cranes as an operator. You can inspect cranes as a crane surveyor. There is still room for appreciating these machines when you get a chance to visit the plant they are made and assembled. Witnessing the stages of production
and assembly while gaining insight on brand history is invaluable.
The Link-Belt tour was a satisfying dessert, but since I like pastries with cherries on top, I will leave you with my cherry topper. The best part of joining the Crane Certification Association of America CCAA is not the access to the abundance of resources I can find on the website or the topics I can view and or participate in on the website Message boards. It is merely the welcoming feeling you receive from every engaging member of this professional organization. That feeling is more than enough for me, and that single cherry is why I am a member of the CCAA.