"Superman: Ultimate Flight" Roller Coaster

by Neil A. Cole

Superman: Ultimate Flight is a steel flying roller coaster designed by Bolliger & Mabillard. Themed to the popular comic book character, Superman: Ultimate Flight has been installed at three Six Flags theme parks around the United States: Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags Great America. Superman: Ultimate Flight simulates flying by positioning its passengers parallel to the track, supported by harnesses and facing the ground through most of the ride. In the station, riders board the train sitting down. After the train is locked and checked, the trains are raised into the flying position. After the ride, the seats are lowered back into the sitting position for the next round of riders.

Whilst all three Superman: Ultimate Flight roller coasters are the same model, there are some differences between them. All three feature a top height of 106 feet (32 m) and a 100-foot (30 m) first drop. They all reach a top speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and feature two inversions. Superman: Ultimate Flight's signature element is its 78-foot-tall (24 m) pretzel loop; it was the first roller coaster in the world to feature one. A single cycle of the ride takes nearly 3 minutes to complete.

The original version at Six Flags Over Georgia features a dual-platform loading station, permitting three trains to operate simultaneously. Each train has seven cars, with each car carrying four riders side-by-side in a single row. The other two versions use a more standard single-platform loading station. While this allows a maximum of only two trains to operate at a time, each train compensates by having one additional row for a total of eight rows per train.

The length of the ride also varies between the locations. Both the Georgia and New Jersey installations feature a track length of 2,759 feet (841 m), while the Illinois version features a track length of 2,798 feet (853 m). The ride reaches its maximum speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) at the bottom of the 78 foot tall (24m) pretzel loop, not on the first drop because the ride dives slightly below ground level.

The New Jersey and Illinois versions were also built on what used to be sections of parking lot. Georgia's version was built on hilly terrain, and hence there is a short tunnel when the track enters the 270 degree helix leading into the heartline roll. All three roller coasters were manufactured by Clermont Steel Fabricators located in Batavia, Ohio.

As its name suggests, Superman: Ultimate Flight is themed after DC Comics' Superman character. The track of all three rides is red, with yellow rails and blue supports. The rides' queues are contained within each ride's footprint and contain various elements of Superman theming. The installations at Six Flags Great America and Six Flag Great Adventure have dedicated gift shops near the ride's exit that sell a variety of DC Comics merchandise.

Once in the station, riders of Superman: Ultimate Flight board a train sitting down, in a similar style to inverted roller coasters. Riders are restrained through a padded over-the-shoulder harness and a lap bar. At the ankles, two flaps hold the legs in position and close as the harness is locked in place. After the train is fully locked and checked, the trains are raised into the flying position and depart the station.

Superman: Ultimate Flight begins as the train turns to the right and begins to climb the 106-foot-tall (32 m) chain lift hill. After cresting the top of the lift hill, the train drops 100 feet (30m) to the right at 51 miles per hour (82 km/h) and prepares to enter the pretzel loop. In a pretzel loop, a train swoops up to a height of 78 feet (24 m) before diving toward the ground, looping back under the starting point. At the bottom of the loop riders are facing upwards where the ride reaches its top speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). Riders experience some very strong positive g forces at the bottom of the pretzel loop element. To complete the pretzel loop, the train climbs back to the top of the element, parallel to where it started. After exiting the element, the train then enters a 270-degree turn to the left, dropping back through the middle of the pretzel loop.

Next, the train passes through two consecutive horseshoe turns, first to the right and then to the left. As the name suggests, Horseshoe turns are highly banked horseshoe-shaped turns which feature track entering from roughly the same direction as where it exits. As the train exits the second horseshoe, it swoops down and begins a 270-degree helix to the right, which leads into the ride's second inversion, an inline twist. The inline twist sees riders perform a full rotation around the track, starting from a position where they are facing downward. After completing the twist, the train reaches the brake run and a final right-hand turn that leads back into the station.