Attractions that launch riders up into the air and then let them drop down seemingly out of control have become some of the most popular rides in theme parks. Several variations on this style of ride have been created all with unique attributes and varying degrees of success. While some of these rides have continued to be crowd favorites and withstood the test of time, others have not fared so well, whether due to maintenance issues or declining popularity.
|Six Flags Great
Adventure had a long history of introducing new, thrilling rides to
guests, and one of the most unique and terrifying of these rides was
Eruption, an S&S Power Sky Sling ride. The ride featured three towers
each strung with cables on a pulley system which would launch a rather
unique vehicle high into the air, with riders then bouncing up and down
several times until they were safely lowered to the ground.
Eruption was one of three of these rides purchased by Six Flags, with the others being installed at Magic Mountain and Frontier City. Great Adventure's opened first in the spring of 2003 alongside the Superman Ultimate Flight roller coaster. Because of the ride's limited capacity of just 6 guests per cycle, Eruption was an up-charge attraction along with the Great American Road Race go-karts and the Dare Devil Dive Sky Coaster.
Eruption was located in front of the Right Stuff simulator building in an area that had been occupied by a jet fighter plane as part of the original Right Stuff theme. When the film was changed from the original Right Stuff to Escape from Dino Island, the thematic elements were changed in front of the building to reflect the new prehistoric theme and eventually removed altogether.
At the start of the 2003 season, construction on the new attraction was still in full swing with the towers in place, but the installation of the mechanical systems for the ride still being a work in progress. On opening day it was obvious that there was something new in the park with an American Flag flying from the top of one of the towers, signifying that construction had been topped out.
The set of new towers were a big change to Great Adventure's skyline and were highly visible both outside and inside the park.
Eruption's cables still needed to be strung and the other mechanical systems installed, but they came together over the first few weeks of the season. The ride was run with compressed air, and each tower housed a set of tanks for the air and in a backstage area behind the Boardwalk Games, a large compressor and air tank were installed to power the ride.
|When Eruption opened,
it became a huge attraction for spectators and a few riders. Guests
would stand in front of the ride watching their brave friends get
strapped in to the ride vehicle which resembled a giant lawn dart. Once
secured the car would slowly lift up just a foot or two off the ground
in preparation for launch. The ride would then shoot up into the air,
flying over the tops of the three towers, often swinging wildly.
Guests on the ground stared open-mouthed as the ride vehicle would bounce up and down with the riders screaming all the way. Unlike most rides, the path of the ride vehicle was different from cycle to cycle depending on the weight distribution, so the motion of the car was random and unpredictable. In addition, the three towers would sway back and forth wildly as the cables pulled in and out on the pulley system, adding to the ride's air of danger.
The seats were designed to give extra thrills, with mode settings available to riders. The seats could be fixed to remain upright, or set in extreme mode where they would flip towards the ground in mid-flight depending on the rider's preference.
|Click the Image Below to
View a Video Clip of Eruption
|While Eruption was at Great Adventure, it ran with limited success. The ride was frequently closed for maintenance and occasionally suffered unexpected problems. On at least one occasion, the ride vehicle struck one of the towers though the ride was designed not to ever have that happen. The strikes were very minor, but for safety required the closure of the ride for full inspections.
|Eruption was always
more of a "stop and watch" ride for many guests than a "we need to ride
this" ride. Many times the ride cycled with fewer than the six guest
capacity. The ticket price was lowered at times to try and entice more
riders with varying degrees of success.
Eruption was never as popular as Dare Devil Dive and some of the other up-charge attractions the park offered. Combined with the maintenance challenges and other developments in the attraction industry meant the days for Eruption in the park were numbered after several seasons.
Checkered History of the S&S Sky Sling
The S&S Sky Sling ride was supposed to be the next level of thrills, but never quite lived up to the promises. Several parks installed the rides, but none lasted more than 10 years with the problems found in operating them. One of the first installations of the ride was at Cedar Point, and it operated for just a few months. During the off-season, one of the three towers broke in the wind and the park's parent company made the decision to remove the attraction before the new season began, and also removed the same ride from another of their parks, Knott's Berry Farm.
The manufacturer blamed the operator for the incident, saying they had removed the ride vehicle for maintenance and the ride vehicle was necessary for the stability of the towers. The towers were designed to sway as much as eight feet in any direction, and without the ride vehicle to stabilize them, the winter wind caused the metal to break. Cedar Fair decided not to take any further chances on the rides and decided to remove them, but Six Flags continued to operate them for several more years.
The rides operated at Great Adventure and Magic Mountain, though they suffered from frequent maintenance problems. The ride that Six Flags had installed at Frontier City also continued to operate even after Six Flags had sold the park. Eventually the three Six Flags installations finally succumbed to the costs and growing evidence of design flaws and were closed and removed.
|The 2010 season was
Eruption's last at Great Adventure. While eight seasons seemed like a
brief stay in the park, other parks that had installed Sky Slings had
removed them years before. The issues the ride had led to it being a
By early spring, the rides removal was underway and by the start of the 2011 season, guests arrived in the park to find the ride totally removed. The ride was scrapped and the site would be transformed over the next season as a new slingshot ride was being built to replace Eruption. The new Slingshot offered many of the same thrills that Eruption did, but in a much more safe and reliable attraction.