Superman: Ultimate Flight
Six Flags Great Adventure
By Alex Bove
Coaster scribe Steve Urbanowicz calls Six Flags Great Adventure "the capital of innovation," so it's fitting that the park's 14th roller coaster should be a Bolliger and Mabillard design (the park's 4th B&M). No design firm in the last two decades has been more innovative than our men from Switzerland. If they're not creating entirely new types of coasters, they're finding ways to redefine existing concepts. And for the past decade, Six Flags Great Adventure has showcased many of B&M's best results.
Medusa took our floor away, Nitro showed us that hypercoasters need not simply magnify the designs of classic out and back woodies, and now Superman: Ultimate Flight adds B&M's legendary elegance, smoothness, and originality (i.e. their penchant for inventing new ways to invert us) to the "flying" coaster concept. Any riders looking for a clone of another park's Vekoma flyer ought to look elsewhere.
Type of Coaster:
Height: 106 feet
Max drop: 100 feet
Top speed: 51 mph
Length: 2,759 feet
Pretzel-Shape Inverted Loop, Spiral, Horseshoe, In-Line Roll
Number of Trains:
2 - 32 Passenger
April 18, 2003
Bolliger & Mabillard
Six Flags Great Adventure
Jackson, New Jersey
The coaster's Superhero-themed queue leads riders through its blue, yellow and red structure, providing a tantalizing glimpse of their fate. Riders board trains in much the same way they board B&M inverted coasters, but before the ride even starts Superman does something startling: it lifts riders up into the prone position.
Climbing the lift hill face down, with nothing but the occasional support beam below, is perhaps the most terrifying part of this ride. Any particularly macho thrill-seekers who might balk at Superman's 115 ft. hill will quickly see their bravado evaporate. The 100-foot first drop banks to the right and practically skims the ground before lifting toward the first inversion. Of course, riders have no idea an inversion is coming: they're traveling in the prone position, at 60 mph. One of the great things about all flying coasters is the complete sense of disorientation they engender, and B&M's Superman design exploits the element of surprise perfectly.
The pretzel-loop inversion is the only truly original element in Superman's course, but it's an extraordinary one. The train crests a small "hill" (keep in mind that everything is upside-down here), providing a nice jolt of airtime to front row riders, then it dives into a half-loop, crests again (the second part of the loop feels a bit like an Immelman without the twist), and races straight into a horseshoe.
From the horseshoe it's down another banked drop and into a series of three fan curves. Each provides a nice dose of sustained lateral g's, and together they simulate the swooping grace of flight quite remarkably. Attentive riders will also notice some nice hand-chopper effects courtesy of cleverly-placed structural supports. The last fan curve is nearly a 180 degree helix (SFGAd has dubbed it a "spiral") and ends in an in-line twist. Because the twist is at the very end of the ride, it's a slow inversion and is quite mild compared with typical B&M in-line twists or zero-g rolls.
I've tried to describe a "standard" ride on Superman: Ultimate Flight. But one of the best things about the ride is way seat location changes the ride experience. The pretzel-loop in particular is a completely different element for front seat riders than for those in back. Back seat riders get no airtime at the beginning of the pretzel, but they do get more sustained positive g's in the loop and they enjoy extra speed down hills and through the fan curves: all coasters have a natural "whip" effect as the momentum from the front rows propels the back rows forward, but I noticed that effect more on S:UF than any coaster I've ridden recently.
Riders in the front get to float a bit more than everyone else, and they get great lateral g's on the fan curves, but they do not experience the great speed Superman is capable of delivering. I heard one front seat rider comment that the ride was slow, but no one in the back could say that with a straight face. Superman is a different ride for every rider, and that's one of its greatest charms.
Superman is also a visual masterpiece. B&M are famous for compact, elegant designs, but never before have they presented the speed and grace of flight so effectively. The ride's three fan curves suggest bird's wings (though I suppose ripples in Superman's cape would a be more thematically appropriate metaphor), and even the pretzel-loop/horseshoe gives us smooth, organic curves rather than a chaotic mess of twisted steel. I could not stop taking pictures of this ride; in fact, I had trouble finding sections not worth photographing. It is a beautiful roller coaster.
Without a brake run to hinder its progress, the coaster runs its course seamlessly. It delivers enough powerful g-forces to satisfy hardcore thrill-seeker, but it also satisfies those riders who like a ride with a soul. From its comfortable restraints, silky ride and delightful pacing to its avian aesthetics, Superman: Ultimate Flight demonstrates B&M's unmatched attention to detail and their genuine desire to create enjoyable rides that surprise us over and over again.
Photos and review by Alex Bove. Copyright © 2003 Ultimate Rollercoaster.
Superman Ultimate Flight logo courtesy of Six Flags Great Adventure. All rights reserved.