Six Flags Qiddiya Announces World’s Tallest, Fastest, Longest Roller Coaster
Today, Six Flags ($SIX) and the Qiddiya Investment Company announced what they hope will be the final word in roller coasters: Falcon’s Flight. While details are thin at the moment, the company claims that it will be the tallest, fastest and longest steel roller coaster ever built.
The announcement coincides with the release of the Qiddiya Master Plan yesterday, outlining the park’s six themed areas. Falcon’s Flight will be the lynchpin in a greater development of the area, transforming what is currently desert to a thrill-seekers paradise, with 28 rides in total when it opens in 2023. The park will include several other record-breaking attractions, according to the news release.
Despite the scale of the announcement (and it’s a big one, folks), it’s seeing quite a bit of skepticism online from both park fans and the general public. So why all the downer Dave’s & Debbie’s?
For starters, the ride (and park) are still three years away from opening, if everything goes smoothly. Generally, parks or chains hold back on “record-breaking” announcements, to not allow others to potentially compete for a longer period of time.
By telling the world you’re building a 155 mph coaster, other parks or manufacturers could get a head start on breaking those exact, same records.
However, with the animation and stats that have been released, it’s doubtful any park would – or more crucially could – spend the capital necessary to match or exceed these world records. Just from the looks of the video, this ride could easily exceed $100 million USD to build. That’s more than some park chains spent on rides at all of their parks last year!
Second, there are still calls for Six Flags and other American brands to abandon their partnerships with the Saudi Royal Family, after it was revealed the Kingdom was an active participant in the murder of Washington Post reporter, Jamal Khashoggi.
Thirdly, others are wondering whether this coaster (and park) will ever see the light of day, given the company’s track record of opening new parks internationally. Of the five announced international projects, Six Flags has delayed two (China) and cancelled one (Dubai).
The last surviving park Six Flags built from the ground up is Six Flags Mid-America (St. Louis), debuting back in 1971 (Six Flags Power Plant in Baltimore was more of a themed-entertainment attraction, opening in 1985 and closing in 1990). All of the other parks that make up the chain today were acquired after they were built. (Side note: the current Six Flags, Inc. is not the same company that built the original three parks).
With all that being said – the project is backed by members of the Saudi Royal Family, some of the richest people on Earth. It’s doubtful that they would allow a project of this scope and notoriety (after today) to fail or falter, let alone never open.
The bigger issue is: can the manufacturer of this ride (or any of the rides planned) work out the inherent complications of operating safely and consistently in the scorching, desert heat and sand of the Middle East?
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see three years for the answer.
Why Virtual Reality Roller Coasters Seemingly Died
It seemed like virtual reality (VR) on roller coasters was about to be the “next big thing” in the amusement industry. Many parks / chains figured they could breathe new life into older attractions with a VR update. So why are we seeing less and less of them all of a sudden?
Slow Operations / Long Lines
The first thing folks noticed about VR coasters was their wait times – and it wasn’t because they had become instantly more popular. Ride dispatches, even on small trains could average up to 10 minutes+ making ride capacities plummet and wait times soar.
Plus, in many cases, there wasn’t a separate line for non-VR seats. Guests would have to wait the exact same amount of time to NOT experience VR as they did if they wanted to.
The Experience Wasn’t Seamless
During my many experiences with VR coasters, the ride didn’t sync properly with the timing of the train or shut off completely, which led to queasy guests. Other times, the VR required people to do an action, like shoot space aliens – leaving their hands unable to brace themselves into corners and brakes.
Did it make the ride better?
But for me, the biggest downfall of virtual reality coasters is that they don’t make the coaster they go on any better. In fact, in the case of Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis, it made the ride WORSE. I couldn’t brace for the “transitions” and the ride ended up being very painful.
There’s Promise on the Horizon…
Where VR coasters appear to have failed, there seems increasing promise in VR drop towers. Parks with multiple towers or vehicles seem like they could benefit the most.
To me, these experiences are a vastly superior VR experience: smoother, one plane of travel and decreased forces, coupled with not slowing down the other towers or vehicles.
So, to sum up, the VR experience is a novel concept but it’s not quite ready for prime time, at least with it’s current implementation here in the United States. If parks can ultimately work out the capacity and reliability issues with the headsets, it might be a novel way to breathe new life into older rides.
Otherwise, virtual reality coasters should be relegated to an up-charge attraction that only runs certain times of the year or specific hours of the operating day.
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What do you think? Do you enjoy VR on roller coasters, drop rides, or neither? Let me know in the comments below – and be sure to check us out on social media!
Never Plan to Ride a New Coaster on Opening Day
The saying goes, “There’s only two things in life that are guaranteed – death and taxes.” It’s probably a good idea to add delays to new coasters to that as well.
Less than 48 hours before the scheduled media day, Dollywood announced last week that their launched Lightning Rod wooden roller coaster would not be opening to the public as originally planned.
Hundreds of people (and several coaster groups) had apparently made reservations at local hotels, planning on being the first to ride.
And they should have known better.
They should have seen the hints – the lack of consistent testing, the lack of updates to the park’s social media page. But no, they fell into the all-too-often-seen trap of the modern era – the race to be “first” to everything. Instead, they all left disappointed and unable to cancel their hotel reservations.
Understandably, some people were a bit miffed (just look at the comments section of their Facebook feed). As late as four days before the planned opening, park staff were promoting the ride opening to local media.
But this not a first for a launched coaster debut. Superman: The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain was delayed 10 months back in 1996 as Intamin worked out the kinks on it’s prototype LSM launch system.
It doesn’t help that there are several “coaster experts” and “insiders” who are spreading false information or rumors online about the ride and the length of the delay. If it doesn’t come from the park in an official statement, consider it pure bunk.
The bottom line is: If you’re planning a coaster trip to see the latest, greatest creation from B&M or Rocky Mountain Construction – or any prototype ride for that matter – don’t plan around an opening day, unless you live within a reasonable driving distance to the park.
A destination ride will be just as good on an opening day that you miss, as a regular operating day in the middle of the summer. In fact, it’ll probably be better, as all the computer bugs and operational challenges will have been overcome.
The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 7
Today’s post is of Ron Toomer, Arrow’s first engineer and the man behind some of the most iconic steel coasters ever built. While the company may be best remembered for their rides – remember that without the people behind them, they would have most certainly never have existed.
Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ
See you there tomorrow evening!
The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 6
Today’s post is of X at Six Flags Magic Mountain – the world’s first 4th Dimension coaster and the last coaster Arrow ever built.
Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ
See you there on Saturday!
The Launch Coaster Theme That Should Have Happened
Admit it – this is probably one of the best coaster themes that never happened.
I’m not sure about you – but this just screams Intamin hydraulic launch…
And it wouldn’t be that hard to do, either. As you dispatch from the station, the lights dim slowly to black. The train makes a turn to hide the launch. Projectors show stars and galaxies around you.
And just as the music hits that crescendo beat, you go to warp drive.
Ah, what could have been!
What’s your “dream” coaster theme? Tell me in the comments section below or on my social media networks!
IT SHOULD BE NOTED: “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and all related indica are property of Paramount Pictures. No rights are implied by sharing on this site. They are simply presented here under the “Fair Use Act” of U.S. Copyright Law under “commentary.”
Throwback Thursday – My First Roller Coaster
This may well be the very first roller coaster I ever rode…
As you can tell – it was a terrible experience that ruined me for the rest of my life 🙂
The Arrow Dynamics Pipeline Coaster – This Week’s Throwback Thursday
Today’s Throwback Thursday is a rare gem!
Presenting the Arrow pipeline concept – a roller coaster that stood for many years in Arrow’s Clearfield, UT plant. However, it never made it into a park (although Intamin would make a similar design in Asia several years later).
This video shows the process of testing and some rare POV of the ride as well – anyone want to get in line to be the first riders? Don’t forget to check out our documentary project on Arrow Development by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on Facebook!
Architect Envisioned Massive Coasters for Golden Gate, Bay Bridge
From the people who brought you the massive Hangar One at Moffett Field, The Empire State Building and Hoover Dam, comes arguably the grandest, most scenic (and most insane) roller coaster idea of ALL TIME!
The stats for this proposed duo of coasters are simply staggering. 1,000 feet tall – 750 foot drops – a 190 mph top speed. Even by today’s standards, these two coasters would have easily kept their records for height and speed.
By comparison, the Transamerica Pyramid – which was built in 1972 and is the tallest building in San Francisco – is 850 feet tall.
The tallest roller coaster in the world currently is Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure. It tops out at a measly 456 feet high. Formula Rossa in the UAE is the fastest in the world, at a yawn inducing 149 mph. Heck, even the “bunny hills” on these coasters were proposed to do 40 mph over them…at 1,000 feet in the air!
Where do I line up?
The folks in the Depression sure thought bigger than we do today, and it’s understandable. It was a dark time for America – and people needed something – anything – in order to lift their spirits. What better way than to build something that was (and may never be) seen by human eyes?
I’m not exactly sure how they would have propelled the ride at such speeds, or how to get it up there to begin with – I know for a fact that Cal OSHA would laugh the proposal right out the door in today’s litigious world…not to mention it’s pretty clear the physics of a ride with that much wind resistance would never be able to complete its circuit!
Ironically, two identical roller coasters WERE built at each of the 1939 Expositions in New York and San Francisco. After the fair ended in New York, the ride was eventually moved…to Riverside Park in Massachusetts, eventually becoming Six Flags New England – where it still runs today as – you guessed it – “Thunderbolt,” the same name proposed for the rides on the bridges.
And yes, you can expect this and many other amazing nuggets of coaster knowledge and “what if” history to appear in an upcoming episode of the “Lost Parks of Northern California” series!
Read the whole article, from KPIX-5 in San Francisco, here, or just copy and paste the link below:
Ride Review: California’s Great America – The Grizzly
When I attended a construction tour and park preview at California’s Great America this past winter, it was announced that the Grizzly (the park’s perennially basement dwelling wooden coaster) was completely overhauled and had, in fact, been sped up by nearly 12 seconds.
Understandably, there were grumbles and guffaws from the audience. After all, this was a coaster that had finished DEAD LAST in many coaster polls for DECADES. At one point, you have to think the park should have thrown a faux celebration at that dubious honor, right?
However, I am happy to report that the Grizzly, at the mid point to it’s operating season – is running smoother, faster and better than I can ever remember. (And I remember RIDING it in the 1980’s!)
But wait – there’s more!
It’s also moving so fast (from what it was before) that it’s actually placing some nice g-forces on riders in the lower turnarounds.
You read right – Grizzly, a coaster that was smoothed out from it’s original design to be more “family friendly” in the 1980’s – is becoming more and more forceful with every day she’s running. (And that’s a GOOD thing!)
Will it ever compete with Gold Striker on thrills? Absolutely not – even with extensive re-profiling to match more closely to the ORIGINAL Grizzly design at Kings Dominion in Virginia – to compare Gold Striker and the Grizzly is unfair.
However, with two very re-rideable wooden coasters now in the park, the Grizzly makes for a perfect “starter” coaster for the enthusiast in training, who’s not quite ready yet to “strike gold.”
Now, if only the park could speed up dispatches by doing away with those unnecessary second and THIRD seat belts…
Gold Striker Closed Only Temporarily for Modifications
After two weeks of soft testing, a lavish grand opening ceremony and over a month of regular operation, the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster at California’s Great America is closed temporarily to allow for additional sound mitigation to be placed on the ride. But don’t hit your panic buttons – published news reports say the ride is expected to be back up and running by the July 4th holiday – NOT an extended, unknown period.
According to the City of Santa Clara’s “Smart Permit” website, Gold Striker had several criteria to meet in order for it to open permanently, the biggest of which states: “Should the additional testing reveal that the coaster is not in compliance with Condition 23 (amount of sound coming from the ride) or any applicable City ordinances, Cedar Fair shall undertake Remedial Measures, as defined in the Settlement Agt Agreement.” Apparently, the ride was just shy of making all those criteria.
Many industry watchers and local boosters see this addition to the park (and the subsequent work to ensure everyone is satisfied) as a serious commitment from corporate owner Cedar Fair, LP to both the park and the local economy.
“Cedar Fair elected to close the ride to install additional sound mitigation upgrades,” said Santa Clara Mayor, Jamie Matthews. “Those upgrades should bring the ride into full compliance with the previous settlement. I’m hoping to see it open here for the 4th of July.”
He added, “I am very happy with the way this is situation is working out – it shows responsible citizenship – that we can all work together and come to a solution.”
Since “soft-opening” in May, Gold Striker has seen major additions, most notably the addition of plywood walls and white foam along the sides and underside of the track. By coincidence, these spots pass closest to or face the buildings located on Great America Parkway. During initial construction, the park added what was dubbed an, “initial descent tunnel” onto the first drop of the ride. This feature was presumably added to mitigate the sound from the first drop of the ride.
Trying to build this ride has been quite the roller coaster ride in and of itself – the plans go back to 2007, when the park first began the permitting process. In addition to the standard permits, three hearings were held on potential noise levels – all of which were initiated by appeals from the owners of the buildings closest to the proposed ride.
Billy D’Anjou, a local roller coaster enthusiast, has logged 80 circuits on the coaster since it opened in May and is hoping to hit his 100th ride in July.
“I personally don’t mind more enhancements (to the ride) but I think the whole noise mitigation issue has gotten out out of control,” he said. “In the end it makes me worry what limitations Great America will have in the future. (Prudential) should expect noise from a theme park. It’s not a library or fine art museum.”
Gold Striker is the first wooden roller coaster built in Northern California since 1999. It boasts the tallest and fastest drop in Northern California and is the largest capital investment in the park in over a decade. The ride was built partially on the footprint of another ride, Willard’s Whizzer – a steel coaster that operated from 1976 to 1988.
The land that Prudential’s buildings sit on was originally an auxiliary parking lot for Great America. The land was sold in the late 90’s during the dot com boom. Prudential acquired the buildings in early 2002, according to a press release on their website.
Marriott’s Great America opened in 1976, as a celebration of America’s bi-centennial. The concept was to create a chain of parks to become an answer to Disney’s theme park empire.
Gold Striker Video – Rider Reactions
With Gold Striker now officially open to the public at California’s Great America – enjoy this on-ride video of myself and “Lost Parks” Producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch (who is also the ACE NorCal Asst. Regional Rep) taking in a ride.
Gold Striker NOW OPEN at California’s Great America
Yes, it’s official. As of this afternoon, the Gold Rush has officially met your adrenaline rush – GOLD STRIKER at California’s Great America is now offically OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!
Look for a full media review in the next few days – but for now, get out and enjoy Gold Striker at California’s Great America!
Gold Striker *ACTUAL REVIEW* at California’s Great America
That’s the word most people were saying after they got off Gold Striker this evening. While not open to the public yet, California’s Great America invited people, including yours truly, to come out and participate in a promo shoot for commercials and still advertising.
Folks, this ride is the REAL DEAL and is setting up to be a real “sleeper hit” across the country. Most people know Great America as a park that seems to enjoy removing rides rather than building them. Gold Striker might just make you forgive them (maybe).
The fun starts before you get to the lift hill (that’s right, BEFORE you get to the lift hill!) Folks in the rear seats will appreciate the incredible whip of the turnaround out of the station, which could be the tightest I’ve ever seen taken at speed before on a woodie) and those in the front seat will appreciate the airtime (yes, I said AIRTIME) on the bunny hill before the lift.
After ascending the lift, riders enter the “initial descent tunnel” and that’s where all hell breaks loose. The ride is fast, noisy and the effect of blasting out fo the tunnel is impossible to describe.
From there the ride does a VERY close flyby of the station stairs, giving wonderful photo / video opportunities. A floater hill and a few head choppers later, the ride finds it’s speed…and keeps it until the brake run.
I don’t want to completely ruin the ride for you, but know that there are many “pops” of air on this ride, usually to set you up for another element. Call it a “tag team coaster” because they work perfectly together.
Coming into the final turn, you hit the magnetic (it’s Silicon Valley, gotta have some technology) and then back to the station. Pictorium fans will be saddened to learn that two of the entrances have been demolished, but the building itself still stands.
To quote my ride mate for this marathon session, “Airtime is back with GCI.”
We squeezed in nine (9) rides before the park shut down the line. Average wait times were 15 minutes, shrinking as more and more of the general public left. This ride is NOT EASY to marathon, but for all the RIGHT reasons. It is INTENSE, BREAKNECK PACED and to be quite honest, many of us in attendance were pinching ourselves, wondering how we got this ride to come here in the first place.
So, in conclusion…
This is a winner all-around for a park more recently known for REMOVING rides than ADDING them. Be prepared for sharp transitions, “set up” surprises and well-timed elements. The ride is smooth with little attitude. This is not an, “airtime machine” but it has well over 8-10 (I kept losing count) pop airtimes. There are moments when you’re riding only on up-stops.
Now, you can take your kids on Grizzly as a warm up and test their (and your) mettle on Gold Striker.
In my opinion, this coaster could EASILY take on El Toro in national polls and in many cases it should WIN.
The ONLY thing missing from this ride…is YOU!
To learn more about Gold Striker or to purchase tickets to the park, visit www.cagreatamerica.com
Featured Post on BorrowLenses Blog
I was just featured on the BorrowLenses.com blog, giving away some of my Top Ten Amusement Park Photo Tips. (Hint – use a nice camera and have tons of patience!)
You can find the link to the blog post by clicking here:
Or using this hyperlink:
Why Buy New – When You Can Buy USED?
Fans of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk should recognize this coaster “under construction.”
Yep, it’s the former Hurricane, with a new coat of paint and in a MUCH LESS salty environment (Not to mention drier, too!)
When old roller coaster or thrill ride eventually gets retired (Woodies are the lone exception – as they’re constantly being replaced) many of them are actually sold to smaller, “mom and pop” parks where they’re appreciated for many years after their first installation.
There’s even websites, such as this one, which could be considered the “Craiglist” of the Coaster – where all sorts of new and used rides are bought, sold and traded between parks.
So unless your favorite ride was completely torn down…
…there’s a good possibility that it was just “re-located.”
Now, the thrill of the chase is on!
The art of the on-ride photo
In a way, they’ve become more than just part of the amusement park experience – they have become attractions in their own right…
The on-ride photo – a way for parks to make more money off you – and a way to prove to Grandma and your friends that you really did ride “The Comet” after all…
The magnum opus of these cameras is surely mounted upon Disney’s Splash Mountain. Just about everyone has heard of “Flash Mountain” a place where fans (and even Disney employees) would post photos of ladies showing off their “Zip a Dee Doo Dahs” during the climactic final plunge on the flume.
Sadly, showing your “Briar Patches,” – while hilarious – can get you kicked out of the park. And the photo it took? Deleted forever before anyone could see or print it.
Unfortunately, some of these stunts (as funny as they can be) are also quite dangerous. Loose objects in the past decade have contributed to significant injuries or even malfunctions of rides. Plus, parks’ aren’t huge fans of saddling more liability insurance because you and your dumb little buddies decided to sneak a RAZOR aboard the ride…
So, here now are some of the best (SAFE) on-ride photos from around the web:
Why not get the whole family involved?
Space Mountain never looked so…interesting?
Ah yes – the singular “group” pose – always a classic!
The eyes tell the story!
Now if only they were on Ghostrider – this would be totally in theme with the ride!
I really don’t know where to start with this one – it’s perfect in every way! DeNiro battles the Russians on his namesake, with press and fans behind them! (Even the ref has GLOVES on!)
Don’t you wish your girlfriend was as awesome as her?
No, this is NOT photoshopped – talk about timing!
Well, the Beast IS the longest roller coaster in the US – over 30 years after it opened. Is it really that boring, though?
(I certainly don’t think so!)
Continuing with the “boring” theme – here’s my good pals the LaPutka’s doing their best on-ride pose via Splash Mountain!
“Dad, whatever you do – please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends!”
“Just catching up on the news while we plummet down to the Briar patch…”
And finally – what better way to finish this post than with a Tebow Tower of Terror!