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X-Flight : A new Wing Coaster from Bolliger &

Mabillard takes flight at Six Flags Great America

Update : 31/10/12 - 14h46 Published by Marc Lacombe the 15 June 2012, New.
NewsParcs was invited last May 10 to attend the media event of X-Flight at Six Flags Great America in the suburbs of Chicago (Illinois, USA). Besides the discover of this Wing Coaster manufactured by Swiss company Bolliger & Mabillard, we had the opportunity to talk with Hank Salemi, Park President, Gary Polhman, Technical Director and Walter Bolliger, one of the ride designer and President at Bolliger & Mabillard.

A project resulting of the long collaboration with Bolliger & Mabillard

X-Flight is located in the County Fair area of the park, across from a large outdoor market filled with food counters and the roller coaster Demon. Hank Salemi mentions "Our park was missing of room for a massive ride like X-Flight so we decided to replace Splashwater Falls (ed: Hopkins Shoot the Chutes) and American Speedway (ed: Arrow Dynamics guided track car ride)"

"The manufacturer's choice was motivated by the excellent relationship we have with Bolliger & Mabillard for over 20 years," says Hank Salemi. Indeed. One have to look back in 1989 to see their first collaboration as explains Walter Bolliger : "We worked on the production of new cars for the Intamin Bobsled Coaster "Rolling Thunder" which had just been relocated from Six Flags Great Adventure. They had capacity concerns with the original 6-seaters cars so we made a new configuration for 8 seats in 4 rows, which was more comfortable for the riders and allowed a greater capacity per hour."

In 1990, Bolliger & Mabillard delivers the first roller coaster of its history : a Stand-Up Coaster named Iron Wolf and now relocated at Six Flags America, Maryland, where it has just reopened under the name of Apocalypse. "Thereafter in 1992, we have delivered to them the world first Inverted coaster with Batman The Ride and a few years later one of our first Mega Coasters: Raging Bull. This ride was unique, since it has a twister layout (ed: lots of turns and quick hills, versus the more standard out and back Mega Coaster layout). Finally in 2003, Six Flags Great America became the host of one of our newest Flying Coasters with Superman - Ultimate Flight" adds Walter Bolliger.

X-Flight is the fourth Wing Coaster of Bolliger & Mabillard to be created after Raptor (Gardaland, 2011), The Swarm (Thorpe Park, 2012) and Wild Eagle (Dollywood, 2012). Walter Bolliger mentions the launch of the project: "We talk continuously with Six Flags for the development of new projects and Six Flags Great America has decided two years ago to order a Wing Coaster from us. This is in the average because, normally, there is a 18 to 30 months period between the order and the opening."

The Wing Coaster model is characterized by its trains consisting of two wings on both side of the track where passengers are seated by two with nothing under their feet, a configuration which implies a particular ride design, as confirms Walter Bolliger: "The main challenge with designing this roller coaster was that the riders are far from the track and it means that the effects of rotating are amplified. So, the ride layout has to be designed to minimize that. Six Flags had also mentionned there would be interaction with sceneries, so we worked with them on making sure the layout fits to those."

The theme of the attraction plays a key role in the visitors experience explains Hank Salemi, "We have here a unique ride experience so we wanted to exploit it with a military theming where visitors are supposed to test a new aircraft prototype. We did everything, starting with a custom soundtrack, big theming elements including a giant control tower and even unique costumes for the ride operators."

Looking at statistics, the layout of X-Flight is 915 meters long (approx 3,000 ft) and consists of five inversions including a 37 meters (120 ft) high reversed Dive Drop, an Immelmann, a In-Line Twist and two Zero-G Roll. The maximum speed of the 2 trains ( each with 32 passengers in 8 rows) reaches 88 kph (approx 55 mph).

Our opinion

This is probably the best Bolliger & Mabillard coaster that we have ever tested. There are nice intense moments, great theming elements that we interact with and the unique riding position adds a lot! The best seat for us is the back of the train, right side to get all the interactions with the ground, water cannons and the keyhole element.

The queue is under the ride and offers a lot of original views such as when we cross the control tower with the In-Line Twist just above us. We appreciate that the park was managing the stations very well and making sure the queue always moved very quickly. We also note that the ride has the Flash Pass system, but only the Platinum level ($95 per day) and limited to one ride at a time.

X-Flight starts with the Dive Drop which is very spectacular when the train rolls on itself on the right and dives down while we're upside down. Once we're near the ground, we rise up in a large Zero G Roll that makes us float before arriving to what's probably the most intense element of the ride, the Immelmann, where the train enters off a half loop, before rolling out in the other direction while going down. We pass then over the water with splashing effects before rising into a large 180 degrees turn and doing a second Zero-G Roll as intense as the first.

The train goes through a hangar door before rising into a 270 degrees helix followed by the most exciting part of the ride : the keyhole element. We start a long barrel roll and when we're at 90 degrees, we have an amazing head and leg choppers moment as we go through the control tower. Then, when we're upside down, we go through the black and yellow frame in a cloud of mist. The ride finaly ends up with a last 270 degrees helix into the magnetic brakes.

Interview with Gary Polhman, Technical Director at Six Flags Great America

NewsParcs: Could you explain us why Six Flags Great America decided to choose a Bolliger & Mabillard Wing Coaster?

Gary Polhman : In addition to the excellent relationship we have with them, this is the fact that they are unique and have lots of experience! They make very smooth rides which are popular with our visitors. And in a more technical side, their roller coasters are easy to assemble and maintain!

NP: About the maintenance, X-Flight is the 4th Bolliger & Mabillard coaster operating in your park. Is there any benefit to have so many of them for the technical team?

GP: Yes! This is not seen from outside, but there are many spare parts that are actually compatible among all our four rides. This is the case for the road wheels of Raging Bull and X-Flight for example. It is easier for maintenance to have a large stock of spare parts that can be used on multiple rides.

NP: Speaking of wheels, of what kind are they on X-Flight?

GP : For now, we use urethane wheels which are quieter and softer. In the fall, we will switch them with Nylon wheels, which run faster. Its a good thing, because it can be pretty cold here. We can also heat up the trains before getting them out on the track.

NP: How do you manage that?

GP: The twenty feet wide maintenance bays are heated and completely enclosed. We can warm up the trains there and when we take them out, they are ready to run. Over at Batman: The Ride and Superman:Ultimate Flight, we need to add temporary walls around the open areas of the bays and put up space heaters in order to warm up the trains.

NP: Is this a first for the park, enclosed maintenance bays?

GP: Yes. We will actually do the winter maintenance there as well, so we won't need to dissassemble the trains when the season is over. We will sometime bring parts to the main maintenance shops, but most of the work is done right at the ride. So the maintenance area at X-Flight is a great innovation for us and will make things a lot easier!

NP: Six Flags Great America is a very large amusement park. How does it works in the maintenance department?

GP: We have a lot of certified technicians and we can mostly do everything inhouse because we even have a fiberglass shop! We call for subcontractors only when it is really required or when we can't do the job ourselves. This season we have 67 full time technicians not to mention the supervisors.

NP : Thanks for your answers!

A more complete interview with Gary Polhman will be online soon on NewsParcs.

The key role of Six Flags Great America

Six Flags Great America opened its doors in 1976 under the name of Mariott's Great America just as California's Great America (now owned by Cedar Fair) in Santa Clara, California. The park has played a major role in the development of Six Flags because when it was acquired in the mid-80s, he had a license agreement with Time Warner for the use of Looney Tunes characters and that is how Bugs Bunny and his cronies came across the other Six Flags properties in the United States.

Of the attractions present at the opening, it remains today only the roller coasters Whizzer (Speed Racer from Schwarzkopf) and The Demon (Custom Looping Coaster from Arrow Dynamics modified in 1980 with the addition of two loops), the two flume rides from Arrow Dynamics as well as several spinning rides.

In recent years, the park was completed with several additions including the outdoor water park Hurricane Harbor in 2005 and the family roller coasters The Dark Knight and Little Dipper (2008 and 2010).

Interviews by Marc Lacombe
We would like to thank Six Flags Great America for their welcome as well as Angie who was our tour guide.
Written by Marc Lacombe Marc Lacombe Reporter » Contact Us
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Six Flags Great America (Amusement park)
United States Site : www.sixflags.com/greatAmerica

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