Specific Type: Steel, Flying, Terrain
It was the year 1990. Alton Towers, the seemingly unknown yet growing theme park based in Staffordshire, England, wanted to start a new thrilling tradition. And so the park released the plans for the first of several quad-yearly major additions. Secret Weapon, as it was referred to during its development, was to be an unprecedented type of coaster called the pipeline. Unfortunately, the project fell through, and never became a reality. Two years later in 1992, Alton Towers, brought back the idea with Secret Weapon II, another proposal for a pipeline coaster. Like its predecessor, the design was dropped and forgotten. Another two years passed, and another record-breaking proposal was projected. Unlike the first two attempts, Secret Weapon III would be different; this time, legendary coaster designers Bollinger & Mabillard were brought in to construct Nemesis, the most sophisticated and first inverted roller coaster ever in Europe. After Nemesis’s success, 1998 brought Oblivion, another first-of-its-kind masterpiece from B&M. With another success open to the public three more profitable years passed.
It was now 2001, and Alton Towers began the brainstorming process for Secret Weapon V, another prototype which would make its public debut the following year. The concept of ‘flying’ or ‘prone’ coaster was the basis of the ride, and would be used to send riders through Alton Tower’s natural, mountainous terrain. B&M were hired once again to erect their third attraction at the park:AIR, an acronym for Aerial Inversion Ride. Unlike flying coasters before it from Vekoma, AIR would be the first flying coaster to have riders board below the track, in a reclined position, similar to inverted coasters, before being pulled up into a horizontal position. The design was finalized later that year, and AIR opened to the public on March 16, 2002.
Before getting their chance to ride AIR, soon-to-be-riders must make their way throughAIR's queue. Walking through the thick foliage, guests approach the aerial inversion ride’s double station, which allows two trains to be loaded and unloaded simultaneously with the help of two ‘transfer tracks’. Once aboard one of three black and teal trains, the train departs, and makes a short turn to the right towards the lift hill. Slowly rising up though Alton’s natural topography, AIR finally levels out sixty-five feet above the ground, and makes its initial descent. As the train starts to accumulate speed, it makes a wide u-turn to the right (over the final elements of Nemesis) and plummets down the main drop underneath the park’s monorail. Traveling at a remarkably slow speed of forty-seven mph, riders on AIR soon find themselves flying upward at a continuously increasing angle to the left. Eventually the train is upside down, with the train now above the track.
Once again riders plummet down head first into a subterranean valley. Rising back up, the train makes another banked u-turn to the left (or to the right since riders are upside down). Following this is a second half inline twist, putting riders back into the flying position. The train picks up speed as it thunders into a tunnel underneath a bridge leading to the ride’s entrance. AIR makes another banked turn to the right into a 270-degree upward helix. Leveling out, the train enters its second and final inversion: a full 360 degree inline twist. Riders yet again make another descent, this time to the left, over passing the station and guests eagerly waiting in line. The train travels through a small airtime hill and then maneuvers through a final 270-degree downward helix to the left. Making a final banked turn to the right, the train enters the long brake run where riders’ thrilling journey on Europe’s most breathtaking flying coaster must come to an end. Once back in the station, the train lowers back down into a vertical position.
Being the first ride of its kind, AIR has inspired other B&M flying coasters like Superman: Ultimate Flight and Tatsu. If you are looking for a world-class roller coaster experience like no other, the Aerial Inversion Ride will surely be your breath of fresh AIR!
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