Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scott And Carol Present - Sky Rocket Takes Flight At Kennywood Park

Every so often Kennywood Park makes a significant addition to the world of roller coasters. Named the coaster capital of the world by Dr. Robert Cartmell many years ago, Kennywood has proven many times that what was once old can be rejuvenated and polished into a star again. The park did this in the past when the Pippin turned into the Thunderbolt, Steel Phantom had a “loopectomy” and became Phantom’s Revenge, and now the memories of Laser Loop have updated and with a little artistic license, the result can be considered Sky Rocket.

Jeff Filicko, the Public Relations maestro of Kennywood invited us to the unveiling of their new roller coaster. He showed off the park’s latest project and briefed the media on the names of the new coaster elements as the train almost silently ran through the course.

Eerily quiet when empty, the acceleration is more abrupt and the hesitations longer than when all the seats are full. With three types of inversions, namely the inverted top hat, a corkscrew, and a barrel roll, two cliff hanger drops, a banked fan curve, and a series of wave turns, the 2,100 feet of track is everything but straight.

Realizing that we didn’t come there to hear him talk, Jeff introduced, left to right, Matt Hiatt, the Project Coordinator and Carlos Velez, the chief electrician and Pat Quinn, Jeff's "go to guy" for the day. Pat was in charge of the weather, and here he is asking for the rain to hold off. Carlos explained that the ride uses an electric motor to spin the flywheel that turns the generator to supply the large impulse of electricity for the launch. “That way we didn’t have to bring in any new power lines to prevent brownouts. By using LSM which have the permanent magnets on the train, they generate more torque for a stronger launch. We also only needed 32 motors.” Every motor has a blower to cool it down between launches, which increase their efficiency.

Some other introductions are in order, meet the Uhing Family. Lori, Steve and Jordan offered to let us follow them through the day. Longtime western Pennsylvania residents, they have watched the park undergo many changes. Steve remembers visiting the park and standing by the exit asking people who had to leave if they had any extra tickets. “Sometimes I could get almost a hatfull, and that meant I could come back again for free.” The change to POP instead of tickets meant an end to the tradition of extra tickets. Lori says she is sure that the spent some dates here during their courtship but “It’s not like he proposed to me here or anything.”

Here they all are, safely ensconced for their first ride. Once Jordan woke up, she was raring to go. Her hair demonstrates the transitions. This is a very active coaster and eminently rerideable. Hardly any seats were open until preparations were begun for the confined area tours. It felt like you could just sit there all day.

The riders from the first train were all clapping on the brake run. The large fins under the train utilize the same permanent magnet for the launch motors to decelerate the train before it returns to the station. The coaster is so quiet it also seems to make the rider response more muted, like no one wants to disturb the peacefulness of the trees.

The smooth transitions between the elements make for an exciting but comfortable ride.

As Jordan became more comfortable with the launches she also became bolder.

Scott gets an opportunity to do an on ride video from the front seat. Sarah Windisch ended up being the narrator, Scott hardly said a thing:

After the coaster was locked out, they took us on a tour of the grounds. Everything was opened up and Matt answered questions like “We dug 240 footers with the ones for both the launch and the brake run being 40 feet deep due to the extra forces involved. We hardly ever ran into any fill areas but we sure trucked out a lot of dirt. That was important to the work flow because the area was so tight we didn’t want piles of dirt in the way.” He talked about how the project flowed smoothly and there wasn’t any overtime until the last couple of weeks.

Everybody explored the garden of footers. The bolts you see sticking up aren’t loose, they were just used to move the columns into the correct position and now the footer finishing has been completed they can actually be removed if desired.

Many thanks to the Uhing family for letting us follow them during the media event and also to Jeff Filicko and the rest of the Kennywood family for letting us follow Sky Rocket through the last few months. We hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as we did.