Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Blast From The Past - S and S Power's Thrust Air 2000

S & S Power has always been a leader in inventive ways to thrill people and one of the most inventive was the world’s first compressed launched roller coaster. The prototype, dubbed Thrust Air 2000 debuted at the company's plant in Logan Utah at the end of 1999.

The innovative new coaster idea came to Checketts one day while traversing a near vertical hill on one of his souped up, custom designed snowmobiles. Stan began to wonder if it was possible to take one of this vertical tower rides, lay the structure on its side and launch a roller coaster car using the same technology. After some modifications the clean, efficient power of compressed air was not only capable of launching a coaster car - it was capable of launching a coaster car very fast. Zero to eighty (in a then staggering) 1.8 seconds to be exact!

Representatives from parks all over North America, along with many industry experts and some lucky coaster enthusiasts were on hand for the unveiling. Those who experience the ride agreed the new design was a very unique experience. Clearly, Stan Checketts was on to something thrilling.

S & S was contacted by many theme parks around the globe. And, when all was said and done, Paramount's Kings Dominion was the park that "inked" the $15,000,000 deal with Checketts. Kings Dominion and S & S worked together on modifying the ride's track layout so the ride would fit seamlessly into the park's existing landscape.

The ride was carefully dismantled in Logan, with each piece of track labeled before being loaded onto a flatbed truck in order to make the trek to Doswell VA. In all, over 60 trucks full of track and other components made the 2200 mile journey across the United States.

After three and a half months of construction, the structure was complete and testing began. Again the S & S design and engineer team worked hand in hand with the KD construction & maintenance crew to ensure the ride was reconstructed to its exact specifications and thoroughly tested, with every safety feature and mechanical component installed and functioning properly.

When the ride opened in the spring of 2001, Thrust Air 2000 had become Hypersonic XLC. The park's 11th roller coaster, Hypersonic was 1560 feet long, with a 165 foot tall, 90 degree vertical ascent and descent. The ride was powered by 2 250hp & 2 200hp air compressors. And, just like a professional drag race the 16 second ride started with a red, yellow, green series of lights.

Hypersonic XLC was an awesome ride, which unfortunately suffered from extended periods of downtime. Our first ride in the Spring of 2001 was a test of endurance, we stood in line nearly all day, watching it test, open, go down. But, finally we got our front seat ride and it was worth it.

For whatever reason Hypersonic's problems just couldn't seem to be solved, the ride was closed nearly three months at the beginning of Kings Dominion's 2002 season. It ran sporadically for a few years with Kings Dominion put Hypersonic XLC up for sale during the 2006 off season. The coaster was closed during the 2007 and in January of 2008 is was removed from the park's website

When the park opened on March 22nd, 2008 Hypersonic XLC had been disassembled and was placed in the bone yard along the park's back road. And, in May 2009, Kings Dominion marketing representative John Pagel stated that the coaster is still available for sale, either to another amusement park or as scrap metal. The rides station and storage area and some footers are still at the park to this day. The station and some footers are all that remains of Hypersonic.


Chris said...

nice post! I was interested to see if there were any pictures of the ride back in its Utah home before the move to Virginia, and came across this site:

Pretty neat to see the coaster with the Utah mountains in the background. Wonder why S&S moved the prototype to PKD instead of building a new one? Perhaps there was not as much interest in the thrust air design as originally thought, and S&S tried to pawn off their prototype?

Scott and Carol said...

Thanks for the nice comments. We were actually invited to Logan to ride Thrust Air, but were unable attend the festivities.

I think there was a lot of interest in the protoype & KD wanted the ride ASAP in order to be 1st. The ride's downfall was it's unreliability.