Arrow Dynamics is wildly known throughout the coaster community for its innovational coasters- well, they were at least innovative at one time. Arrow created the first tubular track coaster, the first multilooping coaster, the first hyper coaster, and later, the first fourth dimension coaster. But what started as a bright, fresh company soon declined into a thing of the past when the 1990's hit, and Bolliger and Mabillard, as well as many others, proved they could take what Arrow did and improve on it using modern technology. But how did Arrow get to this point?
Arrow of course started off as a machine company in Mountain View, CA, nine years before they started on their first coaster, Matterhorn Bobsleds. They soon began creating rides for Walt Disney, including Space Mountain at Walt Disney World in 1979 (based on Matterhorn Bobsled's layout) and later, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland in 1979. They also, with the help of Ron Toomer, created Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags Over Texas in 1966. Eventually, they came up with the corkscrew inversion, the first to flip riders upside down since the loop at the turn of the century. This evolved into Corkscrew at Knott's Berry Farm, with two corkscrews back to back. It was evidently the world's first two inversion coaster as well. They designed Corkscrew at Cedar Point, pictured on the left, a year later- the first three inversion coaster, with a vertical loop and, of course, the two corkscrews. It opened three days after Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain, which became the first coaster with a modern vertical loop. Corkscrew was the second.
Eventually, Arrow placed two loops and had them interlock, forming Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Europe, in 1978. Two years later, Arrow took the multi inversion concept to a new level when they introduced the first four inversion coaster, Carolina Cyclone at Carowinds in 1980. This featured two back to back vertical loops and the double corkscrew. That same year, Arrow designed Orient Express at Worlds of Fun, which featured the interlocking loops and a new combination of the vertical loop and corkscrew, the boomerang- originally named the kamikaze curve. This featured a half corkscrew, a half loop, then a half loop slightly lower than the first, followed by another half corkscrew sending the train the opposite way. Carolina Cyclone paved the way for Viper at Darien Lake, the first five inversion coaster. It included a vertical loop, the second installation of the boomerang, and a double corkscrew. Arrow was really coming along with the multi inversion concept.
Eventually, however, Arrow began to build multiloopers with more loops, and in greater height. It began with Vortex at Kings Island in 1987, the first six inversion coaster. It stood a few feet shy of 150 feet, and its loops were noticeably higher up. In addition to those loops, it featured the double corkscrew threaded between them, and the boomerang last. This is what started to get manufacturers putting more and more inversions into their coasters, headed by none other than Arrow. They created Shockwave at Six Flags Great America, which stood 170 feet above the ground. Now Arrow continued to use the same size loops on all of their looping coasters. How were they able to accomplish a 52 foot diameter loop on a 170 feet tall coaster? They began it with a steep incline that put the loop so high that the train was able to go a normal speed through it, rather than just design a huge loop. They built a similar coaster, Great American Scream Machine, at Six Flags Great Adventure in 1989, that was three feet higher. Their final multilooping coaster was Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain, which stood 188 feet and had the highest loop of any coaster for a decade, at 144 feet. All three of them had the same inversions in the same order, however. They had the main loop, and then some sort of turn would lead into two more loops. The boomerang followed, and another turn led into the corkscrews. The only difference between Shockwave/Great American Scream Machine and Viper was the turn after the first loop. On Viper, the turn placed the loops right next to the lift hill, and likewise the rest of the layout followed. Arrow was beginning to lose its innovation as far as inversions... as well as their overall design process. This was heavily outlined with Drachen Fire in 1992, at the same theme park that received Arrow's Nessie decades earlier, Bush Gardens Europe. It was such a disappointment that its story can barely be described in just words...
But of course they had something else up their sleeve. They got all of the inversions out of the way and added some air time hills and a pretzel turn around- all after the 205 ft lift hill. You guessed it, they created the first hyper coaster, Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point in 1989. It had no inversions, no gimmicks, just airtime. The world jumped over it, and Arrow proved to themselves that a coaster didn't need six or seven inversions to be thrilling. However, they built a total of five hyper coasters in the years following, with three being built in 1994... and two out of three were over 200 feet. These were of course Pepsi Max Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Desperado at Buffalo Bill's Resort and Casino and Titan V at Space World in Japan. All three of them featured some sort of series of hills, but coaster enthusiasts agree that they just didn't have the same intensity as Magnum... despite being higher. Why? Pepsi Max Big One featured hills alright, but they were gentle sloped hills that had the same steepness as the lift hill. And even then, the train didn't go fast enough over them to really create all that much airtime. Not to mention the fact that the entire coaster is bent according to the road, creating an awkward looking profile.
The second one, Desperado, was built around the casino, and also featured a bent section. And the entire profile looks like one big yellow coathanger due to its design. The ride features a sharp upwards twist to the left after the first drop, followed by a long turn to the ground and another long turn upwards, ending up coiling up against itself. Then it makes a downwards turn to the right to end up parallel with the twist to the left, creating something that is somewhat reminiscent of a gentle hill. The rest of the ride just sort of dips a few times and winds itself around the rest of the casino. Now, the third one, Titan V, isn't even over 200 ft. But at least it features a somewhat steep hill... too bad it's only one and it produces no airtime. The rest of the layout is pretty much a big triangle with an odd helix in the middle, a butterfly. Forgetting the fact that the same odd helix that is found on Anaconda at Kings Dominion doesn't belong on a hyper coaster, the rest of the ride is very boring due to the gentle hills and the train having been braked hard on the MCBR on account of the butterfly helix. It's safe to say that these last three hyper coasters of Arrow's just do not live up to Magnum.
By the late 1990's, Arrow's workload was declining, and they were reduced to building Wild Mouse coasters by the turn of the millennium- never mind the fact that they had finally gotten the chance to create a large loop (Tenessee Tornado at Dollywood). Bolliger and Mabillard had slowly stolen Arrow's thunder with their technologically advanced maneuvers and smooth transitions. They had even ousted Arrow's suspended coaster with their introduction of the inverted coaster. Arrow's final blow was another first, the first fourth dimension coaster... yet the final Arrow Dynamics coaster. Opened in 2002, it was certainly innovative, but had many technical difficulties being a prototype. This coaster was ultimately the end of Arrow, and they filed for Chapter 11 in late 2001, with their assets being picked up by S&S. This was not just the end of a company, this was the end of one of the most influential coaster designer in the history of coasters... that was ultimately hurt by their own eventual lack of innovation. Arrow Dynamics will forever be known as the company that just couldn't break out of their mold, and when they finally managed to, it was too late. Not even the lack of technology at the time can cover for them. This was the ultimate downfall of the company known as Arrow Dynamics...