Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Skycoasters

In 1990 Bill Kitchen went skydiving for the first time and it was such a fantastic experience for him that he wanted other people to be able to have the same experience.

So...after three years of hard work, research and development, and the multitude of other things that fell into place, the first Skycoaster opened in 1993. The ride actually combines elements of sky diving & hang gliding, without having the expense or the danger of actually jumping off a cliff or out of an airplane.

In 1994 our friends at Kennywood became the first amusement park to have a permanently installed Skycoaster. Since then over 100 Skycoasters have popped up around the world. While Skycoasters are a thrill to ride, the company stresses ride safety as well. Made by a parachute company, the flight suits are very similar to hang gliding suits and are capable of supporting up to 10,000 pounds.

Flight cables are made of 5/16 inch galvanized steel, which supports 9,800 pounds or stainless steel, which supports 9,000 pounds. While the cables can support tons, the maximum "flight" weight is limited, mainly due to the winch, to a mere 850 pounds. And, the 3-ring release system used on the Skycoaster is the same as that used on parachutes.

Skycoaster offers two very different loading platform options. Scissor lifts, which use elevator-type platforms in order to raise flyers up and down allowing flyers to enter and exit the ride. The other option, the Rolling boarding platform, utilizes a cart to roll flyers out and back from the flight line. Either way, your flight lasts about 5 minutes.

The majority of the Skycoaster installations are simply named Skycoaster. But some parks came up with more creative names, such as Six Flags over Georgia's Fearless Freep's Daredevil Dive, Dive Bomber Alley at Six Flags over Texas and Royal Rush located at Royal Gorge park, near Canon City Colorado, Royal Rush would get my vote for the best location, Flyers swing out over Royal Gorge, 1200 feet above the Arkansas River.

While we don't often take the time to experience the Skycoasters at parks, we have ridden the tallest, the 300 foot ultimate thrill ride located at Fun Spot USA in Kissimmee Florida, the shortest, the 100 footer at Indiana Beach in Monticello Indiana and a few in between (height wise.)

Each offered a unique, thrilling experience and often proved bigger isn't always better. But, the Skycoaster at Fun Spot USA is a tough act to follow. There hasn't been a new skycoaster installation since La Ronde added La Catapulte in 2008 Maybe it's due the economy, since the skycoaster is an up charge or maybe the popularity has diminished as time has passed.


Rian said...

The Royal Gorge "Royal Rush" is by far my favorite skycoaster. It's so fun, on the verge of a 1000 ft. cliff. It's such a (as the name suggests) rush.