Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Blast From The Past! - Outer Limits - Flight of Fear at Paramount's Kings Island

On June 18th 1996 Paramount's Kings Island finally launched what was at that time the most technologically advanced roller coaster. The media day was planned for the Thursday before the park opened and Outer Limits - Flight of Fear was set to premier to the public opening day, Saturday May 25th.

The coaster's revolutionary ride system, which replaced a traditional chain-link lift hill, used a catapult launch system consisting of electro-magnet energy to blast riders out of the station. The system powered the train from zero to 54 mph in just 4 seconds.

The launch system uses a 200' long series of linear induction motors (LIM) that create a magnetic wave. This wave pushes the train from a standstill to high speeds. The speed increases as the train passes through each LIM, until the desired launch speed is reached. And, the train is launched and carried through the through the track layout by additional LIMs until a certain point, then gravity takes over.

A complex computer system is used to control the direction and amplitude of the magnetic force created by each LIM. This system also incorporates radar detection to spot the train's exact location and speed at given points. The park boasted that the system was identical to the ones used during test flights on Boeing's 747 to precisely measure the positron of the aircraft.

Before Flight of Fear, LIM technology was primarily confined to elevators and slow "people mover" shuttle systems at airports. In 1996, LIM technology was even being considered by the Navy for use on aircraft carriers, replacing the existing steam powered mechanical cable catapult, to launch planes.

Flight of Fear launches riders through a tunnel, featuring special effects, traversing in total darkness through four inversions and more than 50 twists and turns on a track that is enclosed in a one-acre building.

The queue originally featured props and special effects based on the popular 1960's sci-fi TV series, The Outer Limits. All those props were removed when a revival of the series ended and Paramount lost the leasing agreement.

So, why the delay between the planned opening and the actual opening? Well... as with all new, state of the art technology problems can crop up. And, several did, first there were difficulties obtaining the necessary launch speed, And, when that mission was accomplished all those darn LIMs didn’t have enough time to cool off between launches and over-heated, causing shut-downs and many delays.

The solution was a rather unique one, park personnel visited many local stores, buying out their stock of electric fans. All those fans were used to blow cool air over the LIMs. A decidedly low tech solution to the high tech system problem.