Bird Season: Birds vs Roller Coasters

Sweet Screams are Made of This

Last week, Port Aventura in Spain opened up their newest coaster, Red Force. The coaster launches riders at speeds of over 100 mph up a 367 foot hill. Unfortunately, the ride already has a casualty: a bird.

During the launch, a bird flew into the coaster’s path and was struck by the neck of a rider in the front row. Based on the rider’s reaction, he appears to be fine. But the bird is most likely dead.

This is not the first time a roller coaster has killed a bird on its opening weekend. Back when Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened Apollo’s Chariot, supermodel Fabio suffered a cut on his nose after a bird struck him on the ride’s main drop. The train returned to the station with a Bloody Fabio. The ride was later equipped with sprinklers to ensure that no more birds flew into the coaster’s path…

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Confessions of a Ride Operator: Why I Do It

Sweet Screams are Made of This

“Why do you want to work here?” Every employer asks a potential employee that question. Some just need the money. Some do it for the perks & benefits. But there are those few among us that actually like the job.

I like making people scream. A job that’s normally reserved for the Halloween season, it’s commonly also found at amusement parks. The fear, the terror. The screaming. It’s music to my ears.

And I’ll do whatever it takes to get a good scream. False countdowns while waiting for a launch. Pointing out noises that are supposed to happen and saying that the ride shouldn’t be making that noise. Subtle references that one is going to “die” while on the ride.

Perhaps the best scream I heard was when a girl was waiting for a launch to happen and she kept saying, “I’m not gonna scream, I’m not gonna scream.” What…

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Dinos Going Extinct

Sweet Screams are Made of This

A number of Cedar Fair parks have upcharge, walk-through animatronic Dinosaur attractions known as Dinosaurs Alive. These have never been all that popular, even after Jurassic World grossed over $1 billion at the global box office. And the contract is ending soon (Either in 2018 or 2019, depending on when it was added to each park) and will likely not be re-upped. So the question is: what will replace them? So today, I’ll be predicting what each park will replace their Dinos Alive with.

Kings Island: An RMC wooden Hyper Coaster. The park was once host to the infamous Son of Beast–the world’s first wooden hyper and also the first modern wooden coaster with an inversion. The ride was known for its immense roughness and was torn down after Standing but not Operating for years. I’d love to see RMC’s take on a wooden hyper and am curious if the…

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The Furies of Busch Gardens Tampa: A Review

Sweet Screams are Made of This

In 2014, Busch Gardens Tampa opened Falcon’s Fury, the world’s tallest freestanding drop tower. Ordinarily, a 330 foot drop tower would be enough to wet several pairs of pants. But Falcon’s Fury is no ordinary drop tower–at the top of the tower, the ride’s seats rotate forward 90 degrees, allowing the riders to face the ground head on as they drop.

I love Falcon’s Fury so much. It’s definitely my #1 drop tower, and I have two years experience operating one (For all you millenials out there, that is not a hashtag, it’s a number symbol). It’s not the climb or the drop that gives people the most heebie-jeebies. It’s the tilt.

Also in 2014, the park opened up a new food stand serving signature style pretzels. From a pizza pretzel to pretzel bites, these salty dough concoctions make for a delicious trip to the park. But the best…

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Confessions of a Ride Operator: Rainy Days

Sweet Screams are Made of This

Rain, rain, go away. Little Johnny wants to play. All that rain makes a ride operator miserable. We still have to operate our rides in the rain as long as guests are willing to ride. While I have never experienced this myself, I’ve been told that on my drop tower, the raindrops seem to remain in place as the ride vehicle falls with the rain.

That being said, the rides usually only close when the rain is extremely heavy or when there’s lightning in the area. If it’s the former, ride ops are given the order to take shelter. If there’s just lightning, a ride op needs to stand at the entrance to the ride and tell guests that the ride is closed due to lightning and will reopen approximately half an hour after the last lightning strike in the area. The ride op has no idea when that will…

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SkyCoasting Along

Sweet Screams are Made of This

Probably the biggest adrenaline rush that one can experience at a park does not come from coasters. The style of attraction I’m talking about is generally an upcharge attraction: The SkyCoaster.

Between One and three people are strapped into a harness in a flying position and are towed up backwards towards a tower. At the top, the operator shouts “3, 2, 1, FLY!” At which point, one of the flyers pulls a ripcord, sending the flyers plummeting down before being caught by the cable and swinging out like a pendulum, eventually momentum slows down enough for the ride to cease.

Having experienced this 4 times on three models, the scariest part is the slow climb up the tower. The freefall once the cord is pulled is what most people would think the scariest part is. The fall is adrenaline, pure adrenaline.

The tallest in the world is 300 feet…

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Universal Studios: Dragon Slayers?

Sweet Screams are Made of This

When Universal Studios Florida opened the Islands of Adventure park, it included a pair of dueling coasters known as Dueling Dragons. The attraction was later incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter area of the park and renamed as Dragon Challenge. The biggest draw for the attraction is that the two coasters dueled, with several near-miss elements.

Unfortunately, the coasters no longer duel. This is because of riders throwing objects from their pockets at the other train or at bystanders on the midway. The coasters now run the course so that the trains will “chase” the other instead. The park has also placed metal detectors at the front of the attraction’s queue. Everything that is in a rider’s pocket must be placed in a free locker, or left with a non-rider that does not enter the queue. Universal has a similar system in place at other coasters in…

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