Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Bartlett's Flying Coaster

Flying Coasters, (the flat ride, not the more recent roller coasters to which the term has been applied,) illustrate the typical ride popularity cycle very nicely. After its introduction, the ride became very popular, being the must-have ride for a few seasons. Presumably, when the device appeared at a carnival, everybody wanted to ride the new sensation, and consequently, every carnival operator had to have one. The ease of transport and set-up contributed to the rides popularity with its operators.

The Flying Coaster was invented by the prolific ride designer Norman Bartlett. His patent US 2895735 was filed in 1957 and granted in 1959. A prototype built by Lowell Stapf was operated at several locations in the fall of 1958, including the CNE. According to reports from the 1958 NAAPPB convention, (predecessor to IAAPA,) the first production unit was sold to Peck Amusements and was to operate at the Florida State Fair in early 1959. Eight units were operating by the end of the year, all on the fair circuit. These were powered by gasoline engines, and were manufactured and sold by the Lowell Stapf Amusement Company of Amarillo, Texas.

In 1960, another 30 units were sold. Most of these were manufactured by Aeroaffiliates of Fort Worth, Texas. The 1960 models incorporated several safety improvements, and the optional electric motor drive made park use feasible. 1960 park installations included Ocean View Park, Revere Beach, Steeplechase Park, and Palisades (with the last being a Mac Duberges concession.)

Soon Bartlett terminated his arrangement with Stapf, due to the companies limited production capacity. But by the end of 1960, Aeroaffiliates had worked out those issues and were turning out approx. one unit a week. Total production was over 70 units, 60 of those were in operation by 1962. As late as 1964, Aeroaffiliates was still advertising the Flying Coaster and Bartlett was still patenting improvements to the ride in 1965 and 1972.

Norman Bartlett visited Europe in late 1960, where it was reported that he was trying to license the Flying Coaster for overseas production. This led to an agreement with Mack, the main seller of Flying Coasters in Europe, which began producing the Sprung Schanze around 1962. Unlike the original, German version had a raised platform and a large back flash. Versions of the ride were later manufactured by several makers in the UK. About 20 of those ride are currently operate in the UK, mostly under the name "Ski Jump."

Here are the parks and locations that had Flying Coasters in 1961:

•Cedar Point
•Conneaut Lake Park
•Funtown (Atlanta)
•Lakeland (Memphis)
•Nantasket Beach
•Rocky Point
•Roseland Park (NY)
•Whitney's Playland (San Francisco)
•Wildwood, NJ
•Asbury Park
•Steeplechase Park (NY)
•Belmont Park (San Diego)
•Ocean View Park (Norfolk)
•Revere Beach
•Coney Island (NY)
•Crystal Beach
•Savin Rock
•Seaside Park (NJ)

At some point the appeal of the Flying Coaster began to fade, the rides began disappearing from parks until now there is only one still operating in North America, the classic the Kangaroo at Kennywood Park, which was installed in 1962. For me a visit to Kennywood is not complete without a ride on the Kangaroo