Flight of the Hippogriff
Specific Type: Vekoma Junior Coaster
In 1999, Universal Studios opened a mystical and adventurous compliment to their existing park, Universal Studios Orlando. The idea was to give guests a feeling of adventure and exploration. Entering at a main port they could choose between 6 different themed islands, all centered around the feeling of adventure, hence the name Islands of Adventure as the Universal Orlando Resort’s second gate.
In the deepest part of Islands of Adventure lies the appropriately-named “Lost Continent,” a place teeming with medieval tradition and mystical majesty. The premier attraction of the Lost Continent were the Dueling Dragons roller coasters; two intertwining B&M inverts which was designed to replicate the combat between the fire and ice-loyal dragons. The ride featured an extremely long and heavily-themed queue for the primary year Island of Adventure’s operation. Because the coaster frequently ran a high-capacity, 4-train operation with two on each track, the extensive queue was never necessary. In 2000, some of the queue was cut away, leaving a secluded gap on the southern edge of the Lost Continent, perfect for a family-sized attraction.
The Flying Unicorn roller coaster came to fill this gap in 2000. The coaster was themed to have been designed by a magician that used a unicorn horn which was shed every 1000 years to make the ride. The stats were humble, but the ride fit exactly what Island’s of Adventure wanted for their 2nd family-sized roller coaster, the first being Pteradon Flyers. 1,099 feet long and 43 feet tall, this standard, two train, 335m Vekoma Junior Coaster was anything but ordinary, as its beautiful theming, detailed rustic paint scheme, and custom, unicorn-themed trains made it fit right into the majesty of The Lost Continent.
Fast forward to 2008. The Lost Continent is under renovation, and Flying Unicorncloses down. The recently announced seventh island, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, has just started construction. The new Harry Potter-themed section cuts into the Lost Continent, and included in the new Harry Potter section will be Dueling Dragons, which are renamed to Dragon Challenge, and Flying Unicorn, which is renamed toFlight of the Hippogriff and reopened in June of 2010, with the same track layout, but new theming, including a new premise about teaching young wizards to fly a Hippogriff, a mystical being featured in the Harry Potter book and movie series.
To get to the ride from the Port of entry, one can either go through the Marvel Superhero Island roughly to the left, or, through Seuss Landing, roughly to the right. If one takes the Marvel Superhero route, they would pass by The Incredible Hulk roller coaster, and continue straight, passing by Spiderman and Dr.Doom's thrill attractions respectively, until they reached Toon Lagoon. Once in Toon Lagoon. they could head to the bridge which crossed over top of Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and across to Jurassic Park, where they would make a sharp right and continue past the Jurassic Park River Adventure and Kid’s Play area to reach The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where a left and a stroll to exit the fictional town brings you to the small valley betweenDragon Challenge and the Hogwarts castle which contains Flight of the Hippogriff. If one wishes to travel through Seusville, they would pass through the various children’s attractions including the Seuss Trolley Ride. Then, after crossing the bridge to The Lost Continent, they would pass by the Mythos restaurant and the mystic fountain, on their way into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They would take the left street in the town and arrive in the wooded valley containing Flight of the Hippogriff.
The ride starts out in an open-canopy station where a Care of Magical Creatures Class is taught. Riders board the wicker faux-hippogriff trains where the train dispatches the station and makes a hard right past a “real” hippogriff to enter the 43 foot tall lift hill. At the top of the lift, riders take a sweeping leftward curve down, and then continue left as the ride ascends on a shallow gradient. The ride then dips underneath the lift hill and makes a 270 degree right upwards helix maneuver after a brief ascension. It passes above the station roof and then above where it entered the turn, and after a quick bunny hill, it begins another sweeping right helix, this time descending instead of ascending. At the bottom of the downward helix it transitions into a banked, 180 degree left turn, where it heads straight into the brake run, parallel to the station. After riders hit the brakes, they make a sharp right to return to the station, thus completing their hippogriff flight training and free to fly to another adventurous attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
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